While we keep the data we collect to a minimum, Powell Valley Electric Cooperative has to gather some personal information about our members in order to conduct business responsibly. Our commitment to keeping your information secure is more important than ever before — particularly since cyberthreats against critical infrastructure like electric utilities have increased significantly over the past several years.

The fact is, the only completely secure system is one that is not connected to a network. Since network connectivity is an essential part of doing business in today’s world, our job is to strike a balance between security and usability. We take this responsibility very seriously, and we work to protect your personal information and guard against cyber intrusions.

In recent years, we have made investments to protect the security of the data we manage and the reliability of the power grid. We provide training for PVEC employees to increase their awareness of cybersecurity issues, including keeping them alert to the risks posed by the efforts of bad actors to infiltrate our systems.

As we strive to maintain vigilance here at PVEC, I want to urge you to do your part to thwart cybercrime. Here are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of scams, hacks and breaches:

Keep software up to date, and install a reputable antivirus program. Create a strong and unique passphrase for each of your online accounts, and change them regularly. Don’t open any attachments unless you are expecting the file, document or invoice and have verified the sender’s email address.

Use caution when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, and never conduct purchases or sensitive transactions when on a public network. Avoid using free charging stations; bad actors have figured out ways to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices that access these USB ports.

Carefully examine the email address in all correspondence, and  scrutinize website URLs. Scammers can mimic a legitimate site or email address by using a slight variation in spelling. Never click a link in an unsolicited text message or email that asks you to update or verify your account information. Scrutinize all electronic requests for payments or transfer of funds. Be extra suspicious of any message that urges immediate action. If you are unsure if a message from PVEC is legitimate, call your local PVEC office to confirm.

Sometimes, despite our very best efforts, the worst can happen. If you are the victim of an online or internet-enabled crime, immediately file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.

— Brad Coppock