By Kenny Griswold
Vice President, Information Technology for Broad River Electric Cooperative
In today’s digital world, cyberattacks are unfortunately nothing new. Cybercriminals can attack on multiple levels, from large-scale attacks targeting corporations to smaller phishing attacks aimed at gaining an individual’s personal information.
Broad River Electric goes to great efforts to protect the data with which you’ve entrusted us. Our employees receive regular cybersecurity training. We continually monitor cyber threats and take steps to strengthen our cyber security posture. We’re always trying to enhance the security mechanisms that protect you and the reliable power upon which you depend.
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but good cyber habits should be practiced year-round by everyone. There are several practical steps you can take to safeguard your devices and data.
Enable multi-factor authentication.
Also known as two-step verification, multi-factor authentication adds a second step when logging into an account (to prove you’re really you), which greatly increases the security of the account. This second step could include an extra PIN, answering an extra security question, a code received via email or a secure token. Regardless of the type of authentication, this additional step makes it twice as hard for cybercriminals to access your account. Not every account offers multi-factor authentication, but it’s becoming increasingly popular and should be utilized when available.
Use strong passwords and a password manager.
Remember, passwords are the “keys” to your personal home online. Your passwords should always be long, unique and complex. Create passwords using at least 12 characters and never reuse passwords for multiple accounts. It’s best to use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. If you have a lot of accounts, consider using a password manager to store them easily and securely in one place.
It may seem obvious, but regularly updating software is one of the easiest ways to keep your personal information secure. Most companies provide automatic updates and will send reminders so you can easily install the update. If you’re not receiving automatic software updates, set a reminder to do so quarterly. Be aware that some cybercriminals will send fake updates; these typically appear as a pop-up window when visiting a website. Use good judgement and always think before you click.
Recognize and report phishing attacks.
Don’t take the bait when cybercriminals go phishing. The signs of a phishing attack can be subtle, so take the extra time to inspect emails thoroughly. Most phishing emails include offers that are too good to be true, an urgent or alarming tone, misspellings and poorly crafted language, ambiguous greetings, strange requests or an email address that doesn’t match the company it’s coming from. Most platforms like Outlook, Gmail and Mac Mail allow users to report phishing emails. If you suspect a phishing attempt, take an extra minute to report it. Cybercriminals are here to stay, but when we all take a risk-based approach to our cyber behavior, we’re creating a safer internet for all. Visit staysafeonline.org for additional cybersecurity tips.