It seems like data breaches have been a major topic of discussion in the news. Yahoo, Target and others have all fallen victim to hackers who have accessed their online files and stolen the important information of their customers. Most recently, Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, fell victim.
During my time as CEO of Medina Electric Cooperative, cybersecurity has become something we are increasingly aware of. More of our annual budget is allotted to prevention of data breaches every year, and the threat has become a topic at most staff meetings. The danger cyber criminals pose is real, and as your cooperative, our attention to the matter is crucial.
I know all too well that the threat is real. Unfortunately, my wife and I have both been victims of stolen identities. It has taken countless phone calls and hours on the phone, along with consultations with attorneys, to even begin to straighten out the issues that these thieves caused. And I know that the battle will never really be over. We have never been able to figure out how they got our personal information, but as often as we enter it and fill out forms—just like all of you—it truly could have come from anywhere. One thing I do know is that it has not been an easy fix. I would not wish a stolen identity on anyone.
Managing your electric account gives us access to personal and confidential information, and protecting that information is an integral part of the service we provide. We realize that members expect their information to be kept safe and confidential. Your name and Social Security number are used to verify your identity when you sign up for service and when you call in with questions later.
Your information is kept behind protected networks, and member information is not accessible by all MEC employees—only those who need access to it for their job duties. Our IT department ensures that firewalls and antivirus applications prevent any unauthorized access. Documents, or any printed items containing member information, are kept in locked shredding containers and destroyed. Staff also undergoes regular training on how to reduce the risk of data breaches.
Your information is never sold or given to anyone for the purpose of selling you something.
There are steps that you can take to help protect your personal information. Use different passwords for different online accounts, and make sure your passwords are unique, easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess. Passwords on accounts are the first line of defense.
I truly believe that data breaches are a major threat in this day and age. I can’’t promise you that it will never happen at Medina EC, but I can promise you that we are doing everything we can to prevent it from happening.
Until next time,