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What would happen if a Public Utility District (PUD) was hacked?

We all know what happens when our email or social media websites are hacked. If our email is hacked, we receive an email to inform us that a hacking occurred and it would be in our best interest to change our password. The same goes for a social media hacking. Furthermore, we are told that if the password used on their site was reused on any other website, it would be in our best interest to change the password on other websites as well. When a company is hacked due to bad passwords, sometimes the hacker will have a list of employee usernames and passwords. Many websites allow us to use an email address as our username. You would not want multiple different websites to have the same password since it is associated with the same email address. That is why you should never use the same password on multiple different websites.

Besides email and social media websites being backed, have you ever wondered what would happen if your city/county utility provider was hacked? This would be devastating. There are many black hat hackers today that are intentionally trying to breach Public Utility District (PUD) networks. Depending on what type of company it is (gas, electric, water, etc.), you could be without that resource for hours or even days.

According to Computer World, “The DOE was attacked 1,131 times in four years; attackers breached the DOE 159 times with 53 of those cyber attacks resulting in root compromises.” This is an extremely high number of attempts to breach our US Department of Energy.

Some employees believe that their role at the company does not require them to do anything “important” enough to have a hacker try and hack their account. They are wrong! Every account is equally as enticing to a hacker. Hackers just want information.

To help prevent these issues from occurring, the North American Electrical Reliability Corporation (NERC) has created a set of standards that all utility companies must follow in order to pass their yearly audit. There are a few specific requirements relating to passwords. Although NERC has adjusted these password requirements this year, we should keep in mind that the passwords protecting employee accounts at our utility companies must be complex passwords. Bad password means bad security, and bad security could result in a network breach that shuts down our city’s water, electricity, and/or gas. Although NERC relaxed the password requirements this year, they understand the importance of strong passwords. This is why NERC purchased our software, the nFront Password Filter, to ensure that their own employees are making smart password choices. What’s that old saying… Always Practice What You Preach?

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