PUC Highlights National Cybersecurity Awareness Month; Reminds Consumers to Protect Personal Information

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today highlighted National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the collaborative work being done to protect Pennsylvania’s critical infrastructure, while also reminding consumers to take efforts to protect their personal information.

“Today we live in a world that is more connected than ever before. The internet touches almost all aspects of everyone’s daily life, whether we realize it or not - and that means individuals who seek to misuse those connections can reach further and deeper than many of us realize,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown in a statement at today’s Public Meeting in Harrisburg. “Cybersecurity affects all of us – every industry, every country, every agency and every consumer.”

Gov. Tom Wolf proclaimed October 2016 Cybersecurity Awareness Month in Pennsylvania. “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recognizes that it has a vital role in identifying, protecting and responding to cyber threats that may have a significant impact on our individual and collective security and privacy,” said Gov. Wolf in a proclamation.

“The PUC works with all of our regulated utilities on an all-hazards approach to security – both physical and cybersecurity,” said Chairman Brown in video comments. “Our work with utilities is aimed at the security of utility data and the security of utility systems”

The Commission has published a Cybersecurity Best Practices for Small and Medium Pennsylvania Utilities which is available on the Commission’s website and outlines for utilities ways to prevent identity or property theft; how to manage vendors and contractors who may have access to a company’s data; what to know about anti-virus software, firewalls and network infrastructure; how to protect physical assets, such as a computer in a remote location or a misplaced employee device; how to respond to a cyber-attack and preserve forensic information after the fact; how to report incidents; the potential benefits of engaging a law firm in advance of a breach; and a list of federal cyber incident resources.

While work with the utilities continues, Brown stressed that it is equally important for consumers to take steps to increase their personal protection against cybercrime, including:

  • Do not click on links or pop-ups, or open attachments, from strangers;
  • Always enter a URL by hand instead of following links if you are unsure of the sender;
  • Do not respond to online requests for Personally Identifiable Information (PII); most organizations – banks, universities, companies, etc. – do not ask for your personal information over the Internet;
  • Limit who you are sharing information with by reviewing the privacy settings on your social media accounts;
  • Trust your gut; if you think an offer is too good to be true, then it probably is;
  • Set strong passwords, change them regularly, and don’t share them with anyone;
  • Keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by installing updates; and
  • Maintain an open dialogue with your friends, family, colleagues and community about Internet safety.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

For recent news releases and video of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at www.puc.pa.gov. Follow the PUC on Twitter – @PA_PUC for all things utility. “Like” Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Facebook for easy access to information on utility issues.