by Hannah Culak
Technology is woven into almost every aspect of our lives. It has changed the way we behave, how we interact, and how we live. While we have enjoyed many of these advances, we are targets every day for criminals worldwide. Whether you’re on a website or sending an email, internet hackers are ready to pounce. Cybersecurity is at the forefront of stopping malicious attempts to exploit personal information, hold data for ransom, and wipe your technology and all its connected systems clean.
What is Cybersecurity?
“Cybersecurity is essentially being a guardian of information and making sure that information is protected,” said Bill Curnow, PCCA’s Information Security Manager. “Basically, if you take physical security and move it into the digital world, that’s what cybersecurity is.”
Why is Cybersecurity important?
Ask yourself these questions. Why is locking your front door at night important? Why do you install smoke detectors in your house? Why do you carry insurance for your car? These protection methods are essential because they give you peace of mind that you and your belongings are safe. The same reasoning applies to the importance of cybersecurity.
“The challenge with cybersecurity is it’s more than just having a password or putting a firewall in place. It’s a mentality. It’s a way of thinking,” Curnow said. “It’s when you stop thinking about cybersecurity that you begin to run into problems.”
Common Methods of Cyberattacks
The reach of technology in our lives and businesses gives hackers plenty of opportunities to attack your systems and devices. Phishing is the most common tactic used to target your computer. Phishing uses email to trick you into a harmful reaction, such as clicking on a link. Clicking the link can open the door to your computer and everything on it.
“Another way is to leverage a vulnerability,” Curnow said. “An unpatched computer system or a flaw in a website may provide the bad guys the access they need to begin stealing information.”
How to Prevent Cyberattacks Before They Happen
In addition to being aware and knowing how to spot the schemes attempting to infect your tech devices, the ultimate line of protection is preparation. When it comes to cybersecurity, there are many different ways to safeguard your information and data.
What You Can Do to Help Yourself
From a personal standpoint, here are some tips to keep in mind to better protect your devices from potential cyberattacks, according to Curnow.
- Use strong passwords or pass-phrases. Tip: Use a Password Manager application to maintain your passwords
- Never use the same password twice
- When in public, be aware of your surroundings when typing any passwords
- Be cautious when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks
- Make sure all your devices are updated
- Maintain a healthy level of paranoia about emails with links and attachments
What PCCA Does to Help You
In addition to the methods of protection you do on your own time, PCCA also helps protect your data and information. Security measures include:
- All email is scanned and filtered to help prevent email-based attacks
- Advanced antivirus protection helps block harmful files and suspicious activity
- Corporate data is backed up to PCCA’s network
Despite the proactive work PCCA does behind the scenes to defend your data, the essential component of the cooperative is the corporate training program.
“That turns your employees into the first line of defense,” Curnow said. “It’s vitally important to have well-trained employees because even the best computer protections can fail.”
Signs That Indicate a Malicious Cyber Attack
There are warning signs that a hacker successfully gained access to your device or data. These may include unusual activity such as receiving replies to an email you didn’t send, constant spam phone calls, or suspicious messages stating your account was used to log in somewhere. Unfortunately, more often than not, you may see no indications of intrusion.
“If the hacker knows what he’s doing, you won’t know he’s there,” Curnow said. Because hackers are nearly invisible, it’s crucial to prevent the attacks from happening in the first place.
At PCCA, cybersecurity is an essential focus so every employee and grower-owner can have comfort knowing they are protected. The Information Systems Department spends considerable time and energy to ensure operations at PCCA are not disrupted by outcomes following cyber-attacks such as viruses, ransomware, and data extortion. Information held on behalf of members requires significant, consistent protection.
“Because we have been entrusted with that information, it is our responsibility to guard it as if it were our own,” he said. “We are a technology company that operates in the agricultural space. Data has been at the core of our business, and protecting that data is critically important to run a business these days.”
In the same way services such as pool marketing, contracts, and innovations help add value to our grower-owners’ cotton, cybersecurity measures are designed to help protect our members and customers.
“It provides our staff the confidence that they need to do their day-to-day jobs, so they focus on adding value to our members’ cotton without having to worry about what happens,” Curnow said. “Having the technology in place gives peace of mind and allows our staff to focus on what truly matters: our members.”
Cybersecurity is undeniably one of the most important systems to have in place while we live in an age dominated by technology. The seriousness of protecting personal data and information will never go away. With our increasing reliance on technology, it’s essential that all of us actively participate in cybersecurity.