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March 2015


Be On Guard For “Cyber Zombies”


Our cooperative takes cyber security very seriously. Working with our power supplier Western Farmers Electric and various software and Internet vendors, we


against the “hacking” of our cooperative information and infrastructure.


I have often compared the cyber world of today to one of those zombie movies where a horde of zombies is constantly checking all the doors and windows to see if there is an opening left unguarded.


Our SWRE employees undergo continuing educa- tion in many areas of our industry, but cyber security is beginning to be one of the leading topics of learning. Even though industries, businesses, and organiza- tions may spend much time and money on guarding against intrusion, the most vulnerable area may be individual e-mails. Those e-mails may become that


unintentionally left open! There are actually countries that attack business, in-


dustry, banking institutions and governments, but there are also a multitude of hackers out there who are ready to steal your individual information as well. The “low-hanging fruit” for many of those hackers is our individual e-mail accounts that can provide all kinds of private data to take over one’s identity, bank account, or business. These vermin count on human nature and employ a tactic called social engineering to lure you into a situation where they can commandeer the control


transactions, and even the voice or camera devices. Social engineering is basically using some sort of scam to appeal to your curiosity, paranoia, good citizen- ship, trust, greed or other exploitations of our human nature to persuade you to give them control of your data.


“Click it” is a familiar reminder when we talk about seat belts, but clicking with that computer mouse can be some of the most important decisions that you will encounter on a daily basis. By clicking on and down- loading some bogus link, request, or web site, you could expose your computer, tablet, laptop, or phone to a hacker who now has access to all your banking, credit cards, and personal data. We have all received the e-mails that inform us that we have won a lottery we didn’t enter or that some guy in a foreign country needs us to help him put millions in our bank account to share with him. “Click here” if you want to be a better (FILL IN THE BLANK), get info about the package we couldn’t deliver, respond to the IRS, etc.


Unfortunately, when you “click” you may have just


by Mike R. Hagy


unlocked the door for that “zombie” we have been talk- ing about. Not only can that “zombie” now enter your electronic device, but you may have also allowed him access to your workplace and all other contacts stored on your data.


It is much easier to hack an employee’s e-mail to get


that may be protected by thousands of dollars worth of security equipment.


Since you are the only person who can ultimately de- cide to click or delete, here are some things to look for to defeat those social engineering attempts by hackers.


• Do you know the person or organization sending the e-mail? Do you communicate with them on a regular basis?


• Is the e-mail from someone you know, but odd for some reason? For instance, was it sent at 3:30 AM or it’s topic or heading is not something you and that person would talk about.


• The e-mail wants you to click on something that’s not logical and doesn’t “feel” right for some reason. The e-mail instructs you to click on the attachment to see if you have won something in a contest that you haven’t entered or to avoid a negative action you have no knowledge of committing.


• The e-mail was sent to random people who have no connection with you or each other, there are misspell- ings, or misleading “close to right” spellings.


The bottom line is that you may be fooled at some point into opening malicious e-mails, but the more aware you are of the ways that hackers try to appeal to our weaknesses as humans, the better off you will be. We are all vulnerable, but we all need to be on guard and use careful, good judgement.


Like it or not, many of us must use e-mails to com- municate with family and in our jobs, but using common sense and developing an awareness of scams and “zombies” that are out there ready to take advantage of an opening is essential.


Cyber Security is a requirement today for SWRE and our members – just as important as physical security for facilities and homes. We will continue to address all these issues to provide you power through our vision of Safety, Service and Satisfaction – one member at a time. No Zombies Allowed!


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