What Cybersecurity Means to Me

 

October 27, 2020

What does cybersecurity mean to you and me? We recognize that cybersecurity exists as a culture and a challenge, and we know it matters to just about every human on the planet. Professionals and academics alike have tried to narrow it down, but there remains no concrete definition of cybersecurity.

Although Merriam-Webster defines cybersecurity, generally, as “measures taken to protect a computer or computer system (as on the Internet) against unauthorized access or attack,” for the utility industry, the meaning goes much deeper because they are protecting the critical infrastructure that powers our lives. And understanding the implications of cybersecurity and how to protect our families, our businesses, our data, and our standard of living from cybercrime is a constant challenge.

When I think of cybersecurity, I think of many things on a professional and a personal level. Personally, I am concerned about safeguarding our families’ personal and financial data. Personal data is anything from our social security numbers to our minds. Most cybercriminals study behavior to identify their potential victims. Cybersecurity experts advise us that the user should change their behavior to prevent cyberattacks. A simple behavior change of periodically changing our passwords can prevent us from becoming victims.

Cybercrime, to many, can be defined as a malicious attack to software, computers, and networks. UTC members are well aware that the dangers from cyberattacks on utility systems could cause significant problems, as demonstrated by the multitude of scenario trainings, exercises, and voluntary efforts our industry puts forth to guard against such situations. Those steeped in cybersecurity issues also know–on a more personal, day-to-day level–of the importance of practicing strong cyber hygiene.

These challenges have grown as critical-infrastructure operations have become more integrated. Global interconnections and remote, accessible third-party connections often provide cyber attackers with increased access to supply chain targets. As the utility industry improves connectivity and grid resilience, and converts dated physical infrastructure and equipment to modern digital technology, the attacks are steadily increasing and the challenge to reduce the risk becomes more complex. Cybersecurity is therefore not merely a technology risk, but a broader business risk. Protecting the business must be seen not as an issue just for the IT department but as a team-wide responsibility concerning all stakeholders. We are thankful that so many of our members recognize this important tenant.

Now that many of us work remotely, we know that these practices must be applied in and out the office, which for many of us is also our home. We need to approach cybercrime with a broad perspective to ensure the digital safety of all data and systems. Advances in technology are enabling more sophisticated threats against users. This includes cell phones, tablets, technological accessories like headphones and fitness monitors. Cybersecurity needs to encompass all business processes and functions to be effective.

This cybersecurity awareness and investment is not new to the utility industry. Utilities invest huge amounts of time and money to safeguard and prevent cyberattacks that could affect their industry assets and our national security.

At UTC we mirror the utility industry that we serve. The level of engagement and information sharing between and among utilities on cybersecurity is an inspiration for the staff here at UTC. Because utilities are at the forefront of meeting cyber challenges, they are attacking the problem from a collective approach. Larger utilities work with smaller utilities to ensure that compliance and standards are implemented properly. After all, a cyberattack does not discriminate against small or large, domestic or global, infrastructure or technology. This is another example of how utilities provide a public service for all. Utilities work collaboratively among themselves and with other industries to share the risk and the burden of protecting us from all types of national disasters and threats, seen and unseen.

UTC takes this message to heart. Our Security, Risk, and Compliance Committee works closely with the UTC staff experts to develop relevant content to help you do your jobs. Our annual meetings include a Security track that is geared at providing you with the latest trends and expert analysis on this constantly evolving issue.

As for me, cybersecurity means that I must continue to raise my awareness and change my behavior to do my part to assist in the battle against cyberattacks. I am inspired by this industry’s ability to work together and find common solutions, especially now, with my kids learning from home and so much of our lives are online. Any mistake, no matter how innocent, can change and disrupt lives. We practice good cyber hygiene at home, but as our industry knows too well, we cannot let our guard down. Thank you for all you do for UTC and the nation.