Innovation among electric cooperatives has taken many forms over the years, and these days, much of it involves information technology.

The evolution of these technologies has improved our reliability, made it easier for members to engage with cooperatives, and empowered consumers to make smarter energy choices.

They’ve also given enterprising offenders new targets to exploit.

The list of organizations that have been attacked by cybercriminals is alarming: Sony, Target, Home Depot, Yahoo, even the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

It seems barely a month goes by before we read about another high-profile cybersecurity breach or data theft. And for every cyberattack that makes headlines, there are count- less others that are thwarted, unreported, or even unnoticed by the victims themselves.

The cybersecurity threats facing our nation can seem overwhelming given that even resource-rich multi- national corporations and the federal government are vulnerable.

But electric cooperatives are meeting this daunting challenge head on. We have a vital service to provide, and millions of Americans are counting on us to deliver.

Fortunately, we are experienced in managing persistent and evolving risks, and cooperatives are responding to cyber threats with many of the same strategies we use to keep our employees safe and our reliability high.

We build strong systems and invest in upgrades so they can resist continually evolving cyber threats.

Cooperatives promote a culture where every employee understands the role he or she plays in keeping the co-op secure. And we anticipate and respond to incidents when they occur.

Not surprisingly, cooperation is a critical part of our cybersecurity strategy.

Highly respected co-op leaders serve on the federal Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, where they work with peers from investor-owned utilities and public power systems to improve information sharing, coordinate with federal and state governments, support research and development, and cultivate cybersecurity partnerships with other vital sectors of the American economy.

In October, we’ll join with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others who are concerned about this issue to mark National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

We're also working within the co-op family to meet the cybersecurity needs of our members through RC3, the Rural Cooperative Cybersecurity Capabilities Program. This NRECA-led effort, which has earned recognition from Energy Secretary Rick Perry, is designed to help smaller cooperatives with limited IT resources.

Cyber protection is not a discrete project to be completed and checked off a list. Cooperatives know we must be ever vigilant and committed to continuous improvement. In doing so, our natural inclination to collaborate and innovate will serve us well as we continue to build a smarter and stronger energy system to meet the needs of our members.

Return to the June cover story on Ransomware.