Preparing Cybersecurity for Tomorrow

WannaCry, ransomware, botnets. What will be the next cyberthreat to your electric cooperative? And how can you build cybersecurity today for the internet of tomorrow?

Know your smart technology and design a cybersecurity strategy around it before it is widely deployed, says Patrick Engebretson at East River Electric Power Cooperative.(Photo By: iStock/GettyImages)

Know your smart technology and design a cybersecurity strategy around it before it is widely deployed, says Patrick Engebretson at East River Electric Power Cooperative. (Photo By:iStock/GettyImages)

The best weapon may be good fundamentals, says one cybersecurity expert. 

"You can't plan for the unknown, but if you know your technology—its risks, and your exposure—you can address issues on the internet of the future," said Patrick Engebretson, chief information officer at East River Electric Power Cooperative in Madison, South Dakota.

Engebretson suggests a two-step process: Know the technology before it is widely deployed and then design a cybersecurity strategy around it.

The current flood of new smart technologies makes it imperative that cybersecurity professionals talk with end users and study the opportunities and risks associated with these devices, be it digital thermostats or new laptops for bucket trucks, he said.

"How can we take advantage of these new technologies without adding risk to the organization?" he said. "It really goes back to understanding the technology you're implementing."

A cybersecurity strategy should involve ways to disable a device when necessary, update it, and enforce layered authentication for users, said Engebretson. He also advises co-ops to start small and remember to revisit their cybersecurity plans.

"Cybersecurity is not a traditional IT fix," Engebretson said. He compared it to co-ops' safety culture—a constantly evolving process.

"Cybersecurity will never get to a point where it is fixed totally," said Engebretson.

There was a time when IT specialists had a pretty tight handle on things. All internet devices remained in the office and firewalls kept the bad actors out. Mobile web traffic has since surpassed desktop internet usage beginning in October 2016, he said. 

"The world has changed very significantly, "Engebretson said. "Devices are constantly connected; always on. They float in network and out of network. That adds to the complexity of cybersecurity. We as IT professionals have to perform our jobs. We can't ignore these challenges."

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