January 2018 LightREADING Newsletter

Download: January 2018 LR Web (PDF)


Co-op takes hard-line approach to cybercrime

BJ Hattel shows live cyber attacks during awareness training.

“We are not going to compromise with cyber criminals. We are going to find solutions.”

That’s according to FEC’s Director of Information Technology (IT) Mike Parrish who says cybercrime is a $400 billion industry, and, because of the service they provide, electric cooperatives are prime targets.

FEC’s security program is based on industry best practices and staffed with certified professionals. Management maintains oversight, and the board of trustees has made security a top priority (and funded it appropriately).

“We take cyber security very seriously,” Parrish says. “The Cooperative uses a ‘defense-in-depth’ strategy to protect member information and operational resources. This approach uses multiple layers of security – a combination of people, technology, and processes, implemented as a series of safety nets.”

Parrish compares the concept to the safety controls we have to protect us in an auto accident. Seatbelts and airbags are in place, but if the driver (i.e. an alert employee) detects a hazard, the accident (i.e. a cyberattack) can be avoided all together. This is how defense-in-depth works, and applying it to security is the job of the Flathead Electric Security Team, who must consider worst-case scenarios. Parrish went so far as to dedicate an employee, BJ Hattel, to become certified as an Information Systems Security Specialist.

Publicizing the specifics of an organization’s security program is not a good practice for obvious reasons, but the ingredients for an effective program are common knowledge:

  • Ensure people know the importance of their role with regards to security.
  • Select the best security technology and conduct periodic testing to ensure that it functions properly.
  • Develop and document processes to ensure employees perform their role accurately.

To that end, FEC recently hosted a presentation for employees from a U.S. Secret Service Agent, and Hattel conducts periodic internal security training sessions. He’s also in regular communications with other utility associates and monitors cyber activity globally.

Recently, FEC took the preemptive step of coordinating a break-in exercise at the Co-op to test both facility and cyber security operations. The good news for members is that we passed the test. The unfortunate news, however, is that new cyber security threats lurk around every bend, so we must stay diligent – now and into the future.


5 New Year’s resolutions to keep you cyber safe

Locking down access to critical informationFEC wants you, our member-owners, to protect yourselves from cybercrime as well. Here are our top 5 tips to help you avoid becoming a victim in the New Year, and beyond:

  1.  Apply software and security updates on all devices as soon as they become available.
  2. Lock down all devices and accounts with strong passwords to protect your personal information.
  3. Use a unique password for each of your accounts. If you have trouble remembering your passwords, consider using a password manager.
  4. Be aware of phishing scams while opening email attachments or clicking on links, even if they appear to be sent from someone you know.
  5. Back up your digital data regularly, and protect your physical documents by shredding them so they cannot be retrieved from trash receptacles, which is a common practice by scammers.


Scholarship time – $77,000 available

Scholarships are availble for students.Flathead Electric Co-op offers over $75,000 in scholarships each year. Individual scholarships range from $1,000 to $4,000. The applicant or their parent/legal guardians must be a member of Flathead Electric Cooperative, served by the Co-op at their primary residence. Students
eligible to apply for scholarships include:

  • Seniors graduating from accredited high schools in the Co-op’s service territory
  • Graduating homeschool students
  • Current undergraduate college students

Scholarship money must be used to attend an accredited post-secondary education institution in Montana. For more information or to apply, visit scholarships.


Unclaimed Capital Credit Notice

Flathead Electric tries to locate members for Capital Credit checks.Capital credit checks were issued to Flathead Electric Co-op members in December. However, checks for some former members went unclaimed because the Co-op does not have their current address. A full list of unclaimed capital credits is available on our website.

If you know of a former member who may be on this list because they changed addresses, please have them call us at 406-751-4483 or 1-800-735-8489. We appreciate your assistance in this effort.

Remember, because capital credits may not be retired for several years, it’s important that you keep the Co-op informed of your current address.


Looking for partners for electric vehicle workplace charging

If your business is interested in partnering with FEC to provide electric vehicle charging for employees, customers, or the public, please visit electric vehicles to complete a brief survey.




Your Co-op Connection of the Month
Get to know the people working for you

Jerry BygrenJerry Bygren
Trustee, District 8 (Bigfork)

What do you bring to your Co-op?

I believe I bring financial experience, good work ethic, and common sense to the Co-op. Working in a small community bank, I learned the importance of being actively involved in our community — in this case, for the Co-op and its members. By serving on many youth and civic related organizations, I developed good communication skills that help me work with other trustees to achieve common goals with the highest values. I feel very fortunate to have spent most of my life in the Flathead Valley. I embrace the opportunity to serve on the Co-op Board and represent our members.

What’s the best thing about serving as a Trustee?

Being a Trustee of the Co-op provides an opportunity to help bring the highest quality of life to our member-owners. The staff and management are well trained and dedicated in their mission to provide the best service, while maintaining an excellent safety record. Our Co-op is also recognized as a leader in supporting our community with programs like Roundup for Safety, scholarships, community solar, support of the 4H/FFA livestock sale and many more. Being a Trustee for FEC is truly a privilege.

If you had a super power, what would it be and why?

My super power would be to have strength – strength of mind, strength of character, and strength of spirit to guide my family, my co-workers and members of the Co-op to help us through challenging times. Strength gives a person confidence, courage, and affirmation.


Roundup Report: Saving lives with Roundup for Safety grant

Community members say thank you.

A $495 grant from Roundup for Safety was awarded to the Columbia Falls Police Department for the purchase of tourniquet kits. Officer Mike Johnson says that not only will the medical equipment help wounded officers “self-treat” while waiting for an ambulance, but it will be of benefit to the community as a whole.

“We’re very grateful for the Roundup grant and to the members of Flathead Electric who made it possible. These tourniquets will be worn on our duty belts and ready to use should we happen upon someone who is injured. The Kalispell Police Department, for example, was credited with saving the life of a stabbing victim by stopping the man’s bleeding with a tourniquet they had purchased through a Roundup for Safety grant as well.”

Thank you to the thousands of Flathead Electric members who round up their bill for safety! Together, we are making a difference in our community.

December 2017 Projects Funded

  • Libby School District
    (2) Defibrillators — $2,000
  • The Heritage Museum
    Electric Safety Hazard Repairs — $5,000
  • Conrad Mansion
    Roof Ice Abatement — $2,500
  • Marion Fire Department
    Thermal Imaging Camera/Multi-gas Detection — $6,000
  • Bigfork Food Bank
    Lighting — $1,800
  • Flathead Valley Youth Rugby Club
    Safety Equipment/First Aid Kit — $1,700
  • Sparrow’s Nest
    Security Camera/Keycard Door Locks — $3,500
  • Flathead County Sheriff’s Office
    First Responder Medical Kits — $3,600