NRECA is inviting all electric cooperatives this year to join a new cybersecurity initiative that will support their efforts to achieve 10 goals to build a stronger cyber program and set defense benchmarks.

The voluntary 2023 Co-op Cyber Goals Program is based on performance recommendations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security but tailored to meet the needs of electric co-ops.

“We encourage every co-op to participate and achieve these 10 cybersecurity goals to improve their defenses and response to cyberthreats and other events,” said NRECA Chief Scientist Emma Stewart. “These goals are building blocks for a solid cybersecurity posture and lead co-ops on the road to achieving greater cyber priorities.”

Launched through NRECA’s Rural Cooperative Cybersecurity Capabilities (RC3) Program, the new initiative sets the following priorities for achievement:

  • Goal 1: Establish a Cybersecurity Point of Contact
  • Goal 2: Self-Assessment
  • Goal 3: Contract Review
  • Goal 4: Multi-Factor Authentication
  • Goal 5: Default Password Policy
  • Goal 6: Leadership Training
  • Goal 7: Employee Training
  • Goal 8: IT\OT Segmentation
  • Goal 9: Cyber Incident Response Plan
  • Goal 10: Data Backups

Co-ops that sign up for the program will receive guidelines and links to resources to help them fulfill the goals and may be credited for those they have already achieved. So far, 68 co-ops have registered since December, and four have completed all 10 goals.

Central Electric Power Cooperative, based in Jefferson City, Missouri, joined the program and quickly met each of the goals after working to achieve these security milestones for the past few years. Recognition by NRECA emphasizes the importance the co-op places on cybersecurity, said Mark Holzem, CEPC’s information security manager.

“We wanted to show our members that we take cybersecurity very seriously and demonstrate that we follow basic security best practices,” Holzem said.

As one resource to help co-ops achieve these goals, NRECA released a new CEO guidebook on cybersecurity from its series to assist co-op leaders in understanding cyberthreats, the risk landscape and the benefit of proactive business decisions on cybersecurity.

Co-ops that complete the 10 goals by the end of this year will receive a physical award and a digital badge to display on websites and social media. In addition, their staff will be recognized in a special ceremony at the 2024 NRECA Co-op Cyber Tech Conference.

“Co-ops that accomplish these goals will gain so much—decision-making skills, enhanced collaboration, staff motivation—in addition to a stronger cyber defense,” said Stewart.

“We look forward to working with all our members on this initiative to advance cybersecurity of the grid.”