Tips for keeping your co-op cybersafe

14 May 2024

As everything in our world becomes increasingly digital, and more business activities move online, the importance of thinking about cybersecurity grows.  

And not just for big organizations. Even housing co-ops can be targets for cyber criminals.  

Is this something you’ve talked about at your co-op? 

If yes, that’s great! If not, you’ve got some work to do.  

A good place to start is for the board and staff to review how you gather, use and store digital information. This is an important part of your business continuity planning. Knowing what digital information, the co-op holds will give you a clear picture of how you can stop problems before they happen.  

Here are some tips and resources to you can use to get on top of cyber security at your co-op.  

1. Beware of suspicious emails 

Many of us can spot obvious spam emails in our inboxes, and people who use email to attempt to get sensitive information know this. As a result, these attempts, called phishing, are becoming increasingly sophisticated.  

With increasing spam messages arriving in our inboxes every day, it is important to become more skilled at spotting phishing emails (attempts to use email to get sensitive information) because these are more and more sophisticated.  

Hackers can often use publicly available information to craft convincing messages and even manufacture a seemingly real website designed to get information such as your password or credit card details.  

To learn more, a cybersecurity company KnowB4 has collected a ton of information on phishing and how it works. Check it out to better acquaint yourself with the techniques that are being used today. 

The bottom line: always think before you click on an attachment, a link or a QR code from a source you do not recognize!  

2. Use strong and unique passwords 

Bad news. Using “123456” or “password” as your password doesn’t cut it. The more complex your passwords, the safer your personal information will be. 

A password manager like Dashlane or 1Password can help you generate strong, unique passwords for all your accounts, so that if one account or site is compromised, the rest of your passwords will still be secure. They also help you to keep track of these passwords in a secure way. 

An easy way to check to see if an email address is compromised is through using the website Have I Been Pwned?, which scans through data from past security breaches at major websites to see if your personal information is included in the stolen data. 3.  

3. Securely back up your data 

Where are you storing your co-op’s important and sensitive information? If information is stored in filing cabinets in your office, what happens if these documents were damaged in a floor or fire?  

It’s why digitizing your important documents and having them securely backed-up in a cloud-based storage system is important, as well as carefully managing who can access that system.  

4. Further resources and getting help  

It might seem a bit overwhelming to get started, but never fear! There are a lot of different resources that your co-op can use to tighten up any security holes or vulnerabilities.  

The previously mentioned company KnowB4 has a great collection of free and paid training resources that can help educate co-op staff and members on the importance of cybersecurity.  

The co-op sector’s group buying program Co-op Cost Cutters has a supply agreement with Document Direction Limited (DDL) to help co-ops with various IT needs, including cybersecurity.  

Check out some of the cybersecurity tips they recently shared courtesy of DDL. 

Think of cybersecurity at your co-op as like maintaining a fence. It’s important to keep checking it to make sure it’s holding up okay, and it’s a job that everyone should pitch in to help do.  

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