Co-op Cyber Tech, NRECA’s first conference dedicated to cybersecurity, drew 300 participants to Washington, D.C., last week where they learned about NRECA’s key partnerships, innovative research, tools and services to build their best cyber defense.

“This conference forms the foundation for building our cybersecurity community,” NRECA Chief Scientist Emma Stewart said. “Here, we bring industry, co-ops and government together to understand challenges and opportunities during this period of change, growing threats and great opportunity.”

Breakout sessions included discussions on the challenges and solutions for creating a skilled cyber workforce, a legal and regulatory update on cybersecurity policies, how to secure distributed energy resources and the latest from the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center on cyberthreats.

Mara Winn, deputy director for preparedness, policy and risk analysis at the U.S. Department of Energy, and Michael Toecker, cybersecurity adviser at DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response, were among the keynote speakers.

Participants learned how they can benefit from NRECA’s collaborations with DOE and other federal agencies on several cyber and physical security programs as funds flow from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law.

That includes a $15 million cybersecurity award from DOE for NRECA to assist co-ops in deploying threat monitoring and intelligence tools. The association is also exploring co-op opportunities from a new $250 million Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance Program run by DOE’s CESER. That program will be the subject of a Nov. 29 NRECA webinar.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to invest in infrastructure and upgrade everything all at the same time,” Stewart said.

NRECA’s resources to help “get those funds in your hands” include the Infrastructure Funding Guidebook, a grant writing portal and a six-point checklist to help co-ops get prepared, she told the conference.

Co-op attendees were also encouraged to join NRECA’s Cyber and Physical Security Consortium to identify funding avenues and focus on workforce training, public-private partnerships and resource collaboration.

“You’re not alone,” said Ryan Newlon, NRECA principal for cybersecurity solutions. “Cybersecurity is inherently scary but now is the time to change that. We need to focus on being proactive and vigilant.”

The 2023 Co-op Cyber Tech will take place May 16-18 in Kansas City, Missouri.

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