Protect the network, beat the odds

EnergyLines October 2019

As long as there is an internet, threats to cyber security will exist, says Richie Field, Manager of Cybersecurity and Network Operations at Hoosier Energy. That’s why with new threats emerging every day, Hoosier Energy is rolling out several cyber services to make sure member systems are as secure as possible.


The services fall into three main cyber threat areas:
• Disaster recovery (including offsite backup storage)
• Intrusion detection system
• External vulnerability scans


These services may seem basic, Field says, but the benefits are invaluable. And, they’re free.


As Cyber Security awareness month gets underway, here’s a look at how members are taking advantage of Hoosier Energy’s cyber security offerings.


Disaster Recovery
Several members have begun taking advantage of this backup service, while others are interested in jumping on board when their current contracts expire, Field said. “Hoosier Energy offers computer storage space in the server room, including redundant power and cooling systems.


We also provide an internet connection so members can VPN tunnel back to their network in the event of an emergency,” Field said.
Jackson County REMC began using the service a year ago, followed by Harrison REMC in May.


“We replicate to the networking equipment at Hoosier Energy every day. In the event of a disaster, we can access our system remotely, run outages, assist members and get the power back on,” said Rodney Brewer, Information Systems Coordinator at Harrison REMC.


For Jackson County REMC, it was also a cost saver. “We were able to avoid third-party rack rental cost. That was one of the driving factors in getting on board so quickly,” said Ben Conner, System Administrator for Jackson County REMC.


None of the co-ops have activated the service, and they like it that way.


“Thank the Lord, no,” said Conner, “and I don’t ever want to. But we do like knowing it’s there.”



Intrusion Detection System
An intrusion detection system helps identify threats to a system. “We can see if attacks are cascading from one member to another or if malicious campaigns are targeted at members,” Field said. “It gives a lot of visibility.”


Since Clark County REMC began using the system last spring, the system has flagged some medium risk activities that the co-op needed to check out, said Network Administrator Brian Tanner.


He’s especially pleased with the dashboard feature. “I can log in, see high-level activity and know what we need to investigate. It’s awesome.”
Monitoring is a two-way street. “Hoosier Energy monitors it as well. If I don’t log in and there is a serious concern, they’ll reach out to us. The best part is, there’s no cost to the REMC. It’s really a no-brainer.”


External Vulnerability Scans
An external vulnerability scan adds another layer of protection, casting a wide net to check on cyber security controls for IT assets, Field says. An IP address is a computer’s passport to the internet. Much like an old-fashioned mailing address for homes and businesses, an IP address is a series of numbers that tells a remote computer how to communicate with other computers on a network.


Harrison REMC is pleased with the service. “The system scans our public-facing IP addresses once a month to make sure we’re not vulnerable from outside attacks,” Brewer said. “It’s been pretty clean so far.”


But the biggest benefit from the cyber security services, the co-ops say, may be peace of mind.



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