CybersecurityBy John Somers, AEM Senior Director of Utility

I don’t know about you, but to me, cybersecurity is one of those things that I get the basic gist of, but really don’t know a ton about. The way I think about it, it’s sort of similar to how the Earth orbits the sun. Many of us know it’s happening, but we haven’t really thought too deeply about it. 

Okay, maybe that isn’t the best comparison, but I bet if you’d ask people about each of them, you’d get a similar responseSomething along the lines of “Oh, that’s very important and something I’m familiar with. We’d have major issues if something were to go wrong.” 

According to Digital Guardian, cybersecurity refers to the body of technologies, processes, and practices designed to protect networks, devices, programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. 

Approximately 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years. The majority of that is data generated by Internet companies like Google (who processes 40,000 searches every second) and Facebook (which produces around one million gigabytes per day)Now, think about the information your organization generates every daywhich I assume is mostly stored digitally. This would be data from your manufacturing facility, confidential conversations in email or on Microsoft Teams, and let’s not forget about what your customers equipment is generating on each jobsite. 

By now, you may have heard about the massive Microsoft Exchange hackThis was primarily targeted to steal data such as emails and contact information. While this did not have as significant of an impact as, say, a malicious group hacking and disrupting our power grid could haveany cyber incident could be extremely harmful to a business. 

A simple phishing attack can instruct a company’s financial department to deposit thousands of dollars to the wrong account, a delay or lack of response from the IT team can lead to a company's entire system being locked by ransomware, a breach of customer information can lead to a loss of customer base, and a disgruntled employee can divulge secrets to the highest bidder. Even a machine’s breached software can lead to a potentially dangerous situation. 

AEM is keen on taking a leadership role to help its members better understand the current state of cybersecurity and address challenges for the industry. Through this short survey, AEM is looking to identify current operations and future concerns, as well as assess the risks that should be addressed by members. 

The survey results will be analyzed providing insight into how AEM members view cybersecurity today with recommendations for addressing cybersecurity in the future. These results and more insights will be shared through our upcoming Member Education Webinar on May 25. 

The results of this survey may also help us develop additional members services in the future and/or discuss industry best practices and standardsThe survey will ask questions like:   

  • What assets are you most concerned about protecting? 
  • What business priorities are tied to managing cyber risk? 
  • Who do you see as the most likely threat actors for your business? 
  • What security technologies do you have in place? 

Take AEM's Cybersecurity Education Survey now. 

These questions, while easily asked, aren’t so easily answered. It’s critical for all of us to invest the necessary time, effort in resources in growing our understanding on the topic. Because, while cybersecurity concerns are complex today, there will be new and unique challenges to face in the future. 

And while we appreciate the sometimes sensitive nature of security and risk, we appreciate your input in helping AEM highlight the importance of cyber security and keeping all of our businesses safe and secure. 

For any specific questions, or if you’d like to express interest in a potential new AEM Task Force focused on cybersecurity, please reach out to me at jsomers@aem.org. 

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