Apr 5, 2015

Keeping Customer Data Properly Secured

Utilities
Adam Groff
3 min
Online security is a growing concern for businesses all across the country and the utilities industry is no exception. Utility providers stor...

Online security is a growing concern for businesses all across the country and the utilities industry is no exception.

Utility providers store massive amounts of customer data, which is why it's increasingly important to protect that information from security breaches and identity thieves.

Here are just a few measures the utility industry is taking to protect customer data.

Software Updates and Virus Scans

The first line of defense in terms of online security is vigilance. Utility providers in the United States are practicing vigilance and protecting their customers' data by performing software updates on a regular basis.

These automated updates take place on a weekly or monthly basis and keep all devices updated with the latest security software.

Likewise, utilities companies also perform routine virus scans on all devices within the network. This includes any device introduced to the system such as flash drives or mobile devices. Virus scans help utility providers find any malware or other malicious software in the system that could compromise customer data.

Security Audits

Many utility providers in the United States are putting online safety measures first by having security audits performed on their network. Security audits ensure that customer data stays safe, secure and private.

As this article looks at, considering that privacy has been a concern in the United States since the very beginning, security audits give utility companies— and their customers— peace of mind.

These audits help utility providers prevent potential security threats by making sure systems and devices are as up-to-date as possible.

Encryption

Encryption is one of the most important aspects of data security and it all starts with passwords. When information is encrypted, the data is converted into a text that's impossible for unauthorized users to decipher. Encrypted data requires the use of a password to access and every major utility provider in the country password protects their customers' data.

Passwords are also required on the customer's end in order to access online documents or to make online utilities payments through a private account.

Employee Security Protocol

Utility companies employ hundreds of workers, most of whom have access to the network. This presents a security threat, especially if employees don't practice the right safety protocol when it comes to logging into their employee accounts on workplace and personal computers.

Because of the threats involved, utility suppliers are implementing security protocol so employees don't accidently cause a security breach. Security protocols usually inform employees on everything from password usage to accessing the network via personal mobile devices to proper procedures for logging out of the network.

Password Strength

Customer data is only as strong as the passwords that protect it, which is why utility providers are encouraging customers and staff to create the strongest passwords possible. Most utility companies use strength indicators during the password creation process to give users a better understanding of their password strength.

In addition, utilities companies are also requiring employees to change their passwords on a regular basis as well as encouraging customers not to use the same password for multiple accounts. When it comes to online security, utilities providers are doing all they can to protect their customers' data.

About the Author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including technology and online security

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Jul 26, 2021

Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April

Ofwat
Utilities
water
prices
Dominic Ellis
3 min
Ofwat confirms levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue

Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.

The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.

Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.  

In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue. 

Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”  

There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:   

  1. Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps. 
  2. Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold. 
  3. Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice. 

Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.

Anita Dougall, CEO and Founding Partner at Sagacity, said Ofwat’s decision comes hot on the heels of Ofgem’s price cap rise in April.

"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.

"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."

United Utilities picks up pipeline award

A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.

The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.

“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.

Camus Energy secures $16m funding

Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent VenturesWave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.

As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.

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