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Navigating COVID-19: Member Perspectives – Episode 1

The Coronavirus pandemic has presented many challenges for our organizations, but it has also showcased our Members’ deep sense of community and innovation. We’ve been so inspired by the good work our Members have been doing to take care of their members/customers and communities, and we wanted to highlight some of those stories to shine a light on their efforts and spark ideas for others. We’re excited to bring those stories to you in our new Navigating COVID-19 Podcast.  Our first interview was with Jennifer Prather of Totelcom Communications in De Leon, Texas. Hear how Totelcom has been giving back to their community during COVID-19, and Jennifer’s advice to other organizations looking to get involved.   Have a story you’d like to share? Please email Jennifer Segelle at jennifer.segelle@nisc.coop.  Thanks for listening!  

By | April 14th, 2020|Blog|Comments Off on Navigating COVID-19: Member Perspectives – Episode 1

Putting Members First During COVID-19

Delivering exceptional communications and energy services has always been essential, but now those services are more important than ever. COVID-19 has completely changed the way businesses are operating and seeing the incredible ways our Members have navigated recent challenges to support their communities has made us so proud to serve these industries. NISC Member San Isabel Electric Association (SIEA), based in Pueblo West, Colo., is just one of those organizations working diligently to serve members with minimal interruptions in light of COVID-19. San Isabel General Manager, Reg Rudolph, shared his thoughts on how the co-op is adapting in the transition to remote work. “We had to quickly procure the necessary hardware for our employee base to work from home,” Reg said. “It’s been challenging because our virtual private network (VPN) has been struggling due to the number of users logging on and some of our employees are limited by their bandwidth and WiFi speeds at home. Providing some training for our employees on work from home procedures has been crucial to this transition.” San Isabel has also closed their office to in-person payments and is taking extra precautions with their employees in the field. “Field work has definitely been limited as we have to keep a safe distance from our members and one another,” Reg said. “Some of our larger jobs requiring multiple SIEA employees have been halted for the time being.” Among the solutions helping Reg and San Isabel continue to serve members is Messenger, which they have been using to quickly notify members of changing practices such as suspending disconnects for non-payment, waiving fees and notifying members that their offices are closed to walk-in traffic. San Isabel has also been utilizing SmartHub to [...]

By | April 8th, 2020|Blog|Comments Off on Putting Members First During COVID-19

The Balancing Act of Wireless Access and Customer Expectation

By: Phil Fine, Product Line Manager, National Information Solutions Cooperative For many fixed wireless broadband service providers, each day can be a challenge to provide the most reliable and efficient service while balancing the expectations of the customer. While wireless carriers focus largely on delivering the broadband services to the home across their wireless access network, they often overlook the equally challenging and oftentimes more complex delivery of those services inside the home wireless network, which can be detrimental to the customer experience. Deploying a solution that supports remote home network management has become critical with the explosion of Wi-Fi connected devices. The most successful service providers will deliver unmatched customer service enabled by a robust remote customer care solution. The best solution gives providers visibility into the customer home network, allowing a review of the state and performance of devices connected via Wi-Fi to the carrier’s broadband network. Ideally, service providers will have the ability to monitor networks and proactively address issues before the customer even realizes there is one. While there are a number of solutions for managing the home networks, many are not designed to be open to manage standards-based equipment nor integrated to the carrier back office for maximum operational efficiency. Ideally, providers not only should have the ability to select equipment that meets the needs of their customer base, but also acquire that equipment in a cost-effective manner. By deploying a standards-based solution, carriers have the power to use the most cost-effective equipment in their customers’ homes. But that is only one side of the balancing act. Customers have expectations of their own: 100% reliability with all of their devices connecting seamlessly 24/7, regardless of quantity or location. And when [...]

By | April 8th, 2020|Blog|Comments Off on The Balancing Act of Wireless Access and Customer Expectation

COVID-19 Solutions Resource HQ

As the COVID-19 coronavirus has upended life, we’ve had to become adaptive to a new, physically distant way of life. Many NISC Members are taking on new tasks and doing business differently than ever before. We know it’s been hectic transitioning to this new situation that is anything but the norm, and we are committed to helping you during this time. As you work to serve your customers and members, we continue to seek out new ways to help you. We’re excited to announce a new resource for you on the NISC Community, the COVID-19 Solutions Resource HQ, dedicated to providing helpful solution and training information, news and best practices as you continue to navigate COVID-19. The page also features a special Member Think Tank section for you to engage with your peers, start discussions and share ideas of how you're supporting your communities during this time. This will be a living space, and we will continue to update it with new content as we evaluate ways we can provide further value to you. Thank you for continuing to keep your communities connected. We want to underscore our commitment to serving you during this time and encourage you to contact us if you have any questions. We are stronger together.

By | March 27th, 2020|Blog|Comments Off on COVID-19 Solutions Resource HQ

COVID-19 and PCI Compliance

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and urgency to setup employee offices at home for the foreseeable future, it is imperative no one lets their guard down. Security protections that have been put in place exist to provide a hedge between good and evil, trusted and untrusted. When we move employees to an untrusted place, such as a home office, we must either fortify the new location or leave what would otherwise be vulnerable services within the trusted environment. With PCI compliance, that is every bit the case. Fortunately, NISC's e-commerce solutions allow customers to make payments to those avenues without compromising your PCI compliance or their cardholder data (CHD). Directing customers to these solutions maintains continuity with already-in-place solutions and does not require you to compromise your PCI compliance or put extra strain on employees or your network. Even with setting up Verifone to connect to the office network to take payments, which keeps the computer network out of PCI scope, accepting a call over the phone means that phone system (Cell phone? Forwarded call? VOIP over VPN?) is in PCI scope, as is already often the case. The CHD is still transmitted over the phone which is then brought into PCI scope. If you decide to use a SmartHub CSR login or Virtual Terminal, the computer would be in PCI scope just as it would if you were in the office. Using remote desktop protocol (RDP) or a thin client like a Citrix workstation would help minimize exposure - but remember the potential for keyboard logging and even memory scraping would be a concern. Applicable PCI requirements are still in full effect. The following is from a respected PCI QSA who blogged [...]

By | March 24th, 2020|Blog|Comments Off on COVID-19 and PCI Compliance

Utilizing SmartHub Amidst COVID-19

We hope you, our Members, always know that NISC is here to support you. Now, with recent events surrounding COVID-19, that promise is no different. We’ve seen many of you this week working to help your members and customers utilize technology in new ways. Now more than ever we are feeling grateful for technology that connects us and allows us to accomplish our daily tasks quickly and efficiently. SmartHub has been one of those helpful tools for years now, but with many utility and telecom sites temporarily closing, more and more of your members and customers will be turning to solutions like these to ensure they can continue completing tasks like paying their bills. We have a variety of resources available to help you educate your end users on SmartHub. Just visit www.smarthubkit.com (Community login required) to find helpful social media graphics and text, videos and more. This week, we also created a new video for our Members to use to continue spreading the word about SmartHub and how it can help in times like this. Feel free to download, share out on your social media accounts and send to your customers. At NISC, our main focus continues to be supporting you during this time. If there is anything we can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’re in this together.

By | March 20th, 2020|Blog|Comments Off on Utilizing SmartHub Amidst COVID-19

COVID-19 & the Cybercriminals Capitalizing on the Pandemic

With a global pandemic at the forefront of our mind, it is also a prime opportunity for hackers to attempt to exploit the situation. As our focus is on the effects of the virus on our businesses, our communities and our families, our overall cyber guard could be down simply due to distraction and a little ingenuity on the criminals’ behalf. Much like the recommendation to take a little longer washing your hands, it is imperative all take a little longer when checking your email or browsing online. Malware Disguised as an Information ToolThere have already been instances of successful malware deployment while disguising itself as information about the pandemic. Coronavirusmap.com.exe is a real time map that pulls information from the CDC about cases of the coronavirus and visually illustrates the impact. However, this map also steals information from your browser. It is imperative to ensure your sources are legitimate and secure. Read more at Hacker News: Beware of 'Coronavirus Maps' – It's a malware infecting PCs to steal passwords. Preying on the Charitable SpiritPeople may also use this global situation as an opportunity to raise funds to help those affected by COVID-19. As with the widespread fires in Australia, both legitimate and illegitimate campaigns have emerged. Criminals have started up GoFundMe pages promising to donate 100% of the contributions to aid the relief efforts – only for the money to just disappear. While raising funds for those impacted is always welcome, a little bit of research into the credibility of the campaign is key to ensuring the funds are truly getting to those in need. Read more about charitable giving and other concerns in the recent Secret Service’s release. The NISC Cybersecurity Services Team [...]

By | March 17th, 2020|Blog|Comments Off on COVID-19 & the Cybercriminals Capitalizing on the Pandemic

International Women’s Day 2020

We were honored to again showcase some of the incredible #WomenofNISC this year through our International Women’s Day video series. We’re proud to have so many talented, driven and diverse women at NISC across each of our divisions and in leadership roles. Thank you for following along with us this week on social media. Click on the videos to hear each woman’s unique story:

By | March 11th, 2020|Blog|Comments Off on International Women’s Day 2020

Enhancing Utility SmartHub Security Through the Cooperative Cloud

Security is a priority at NISC, and a big part of securing our solutions means protecting passwords. You’ve likely been a part of a scenario where you’ve had to change your password due to a possible breach, whether it’s through a big chain store or a social media site. At NISC, we’re constantly working to ensure the security of NISC solutions is as up-to-date as possible. As part of that security effort, we are making some changes to how login credentials are stored for the SmartHub web and mobile application. Starting this month, NISC has moved from storing encrypted SmartHub passwords in iVUE CIS to storing hashed passwords in our Cooperative Cloud environment. This change allows us to leverage new recommended security measures by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and will allow us to further our security by adding new measures like two-factor authentication. Ultimately, what this means is that we’ll be able to offer improved security, not only for SmartHub users, but for our Members that use SmartHub. Security is critical, and this is just the beginning of our process as we work to ensure that all NISC products are as secure as possible. This change is part of NISC’s commitment to cybersecurity, not only at our organization, but at our Member sites as well. NISC offers a series of webinars, blog posts, cyber tips and trainings through our Member-Employee learning community. NISC has also released the “CyberSense Educational Kit,” a downloadable kit containing a series of customer-facing tips designed to protect their identity and strengthen their cybersecurity practices. Offered free of charge to any organization requesting the material, the kit is updated routinely as new information, tips and security recommendation updates [...]

By | February 25th, 2020|Blog|Comments Off on Enhancing Utility SmartHub Security Through the Cooperative Cloud

Brunskill family’s ‘unbelievable journey’ culminates at Super Bowl

Almost 100 million people watched the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV Feb. 2 in Miami. Only a fraction of those viewers were as emotionally invested in the game as NISC employee Michael Brunskill. Michael, a Professional Services coordinator in NISC’s Mandan, N.D., office, flew to Miami with his wife, Susan, to watch their son, Daniel, take the field as on offensive lineman with the 49ers. (Watch Michael share about Daniel and his thoughts the week of the Super Bowl: NISC Employee Shares About Super Bowl-Bound Son) The Brunskills were able to visit with Daniel and take part in several of the team’s family-and-friend festivities in the days leading up to the big game. The family’s first team-related activity was a 49ers reception attended by many of the players and coaches. “We had dinner with Daniel after we arrived in Miami on Thursday, and he seemed relaxed and ready,” Michael said. “He seemed focused, but you could tell it was different because of all the activity surrounding the event.” They were also able to squeeze in a couple breakfasts with Daniel, along with Michael and Susan’s two daughters and their families. On gameday, the 49ers treated the families to the best of accommodations. “The Niners organized our game experience to the ‘Niners’ degree,’ ” Michael said. “A convoy of buses brought everyone to and from the game, with the pregame ride having a party atmosphere. At the stadium it was an absolute sea of red from both teams’ fans. There were pregame activities and music concerts, and there were a lot of family group pictures and selfies being taken with well-known people.” While the Brunskills couldn’t see Jennifer [...]

By | February 13th, 2020|Blog|Comments Off on Brunskill family’s ‘unbelievable journey’ culminates at Super Bowl