Tag Archives: OPPD

Cybersecurity

May 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It was a Black Friday story that had nothing to do with holiday bargains. In 2013, cyber criminals hacked into Target Corp.’s customer database and stole as many as 40 million credit card numbers. Customer names, credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates, and CVV codes were reportedly compromised, presumably so hackers could use the data to make new cards. 

Customers everywhere were affected.

Leaders at Minnesota-based Target were horrified and embarrassed as the hack made international news. Amid criticism that the company should have done more to protect consumers—and an investigation launched by authorities in Nebraska and nearly every other state—Target later implemented a $5 million cybersecurity coalition charged with preventing such breeches from happening again. The total cost of the cyberattack on Target reached as high as $300 million, according to news reports. That included class action lawsuit settlements and money paid to credit card companies, banks, and credit unions.

While the damage was done, the retailer wasn’t alone. The financial loss from cybercrimes surpassed $1.3 billion in 2016, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. There were nearly 300,000 complaints to the agency that year from businesses of all sizes.

Such cybercrimes have put companies everywhere on high alert—and looking at what cybersecurity measures they have in place. 

That includes businesses in Omaha. 

“We have to ask, ‘How do we endure security of information, customer privacy, systems compliance, the website, power stations, and landfill?’” says Joshua Mauk, the Omaha Public Power District director of security, whose job includes cybersecurity. “Our job is to implement a security program that helps us achieve all of those objectives across all of the district.” 

“Cybersecurity” sounds like a buzzword, but it’s a real concern among companies and law enforcement officials. The FBI says cybercrimes are becoming “more commonplace, more dangerous, and more sophisticated.” The agency reports that hackers target companies like Target for data and trade secrets, universities for research, and consumers for money and identity theft.

Along with being a monetary hassle, work is often disrupted or stopped altogether at companies, hospitals, even 911 centers. The hackers range from disgruntled or thrill-seeking computer geeks to international terrorists and spies looking for money to fund their operations. Even a small attack is a potential threat to national security. 

Some attacks target hardware and software, such as malware. Others are online fraud and phishing schemes, while yet others are considered “sexploitation,” according to Interpol. 

FBI officials say they have begun partnering with companies and organizations around the country as part of its cyber division’s efforts to boost cybersecurity nationwide. 

OPPD is one of them. The utility is working with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to try and prevent cybercrimes at the utility. If hackers took down OPPD’s system, then every single customer—or 820,000 people—could, theoretically, lose power indefinitely.

Mauk declined to specify OPPD’s cyber security program, citing security reasons. Other companies, including First National Bank of Omaha, declined to comment due to safety concerns. 

“There have been a number of utilities around the world that have been targeted,” Mauk says. “The biggest risk to us is someone coming in and taking down the entire system. The FBI and Homeland Security let us know about new risks, new threats, and we use that information to ensure we are adjusting those concerns to our cybersecurity program.” 

Omaha police acknowledge that while cybercrimes tend to fall under federal jurisdiction, they would investigate a cybercrime that occurred in the city. But most of the time, cyber attacks are conducted by people located in other states or countries—not local hackers. 

Police say some companies may experience a cyberattack, but neglect to report it to law enforcement due to the idea that it might harm their image or reputation. 

The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office has a cybercrimes division aimed at protecting Nebraskans from technology crimes through education and, in some cases, legal action. 

Take the Target data breach. Last year, Attorney General Doug Peterson announced that Nebraska had joined 46 other states and the District of Columbia to reach an $18.5 million settlement against the retail giant stemming from the incident. The state received $199,382 as its share. 

Peterson had said it was the largest multi-state data breach settlement to date. 

In October, Peterson’s office released a statement promoting cybersecurity in the workplace: 

“As recent major cybersecurity incidents have shown, cybercriminals often rely on human error—like failing to install software patches, clicking on malicious links, and creating easy-to-guess passwords—to gain access to systems and information. Every member of an organization—from senior leadership to the newest employees—is responsible for keeping information and systems secure. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That’s why strong cybersecurity practices are so important.”

Authorities and security experts worry, though, that cybercrimes will continue and even increase as advances in technology are made. Officials and corporate security teams understand they have to stay two steps ahead, always. 

“This is definitely something we are investing in, from a people, processes, and technology standpoint,” Mauk says. “We will have additional layers of security to always protect the corporate side, critical infrastructure, and plants.” 


Visit the attorney general’s webpage, ago.nebraska.gov, for more information on cybersecurity.

This article was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B. 

Joshua Mauk

The Origins of the Nebraska National Guard

May 15, 2017 by
Photography by contributed by Nebraska National Guard

Wanderings of a lame cow set in motion forces that led to the establishment of the Nebraska National Guard.

“It started when President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, creating the Nebraska Territory and opening the frontier to settlers. That summer, an ill-fated bovine wandered from a Utah-bound Mormon wagon train into a large Sioux camp southeast of Fort Laramie (at the time located within Nebraska Territory, now Wyoming), where it was subsequently killed and eaten by young tribesmen. Demanding the arrest of those responsible, the Mormons reported the incident to Lt. John Grattan, the inexperienced leader of Fort Laramie’s U.S. infantry regiment.

Chief Conquering Bear (Brulé Lakota) refused to surrender the young men who had killed the cow, explaining they had done nothing wrong; the cow had voluntarily entered their camp, and, besides, the supposedly guilty men were visitors belonging to another band of Lakota, the Miniconjou. Grattan’s regiment opened fire and mortally wounded Conquering Bear; however, the infantry proved no match for the Brulé warriors, who completely annihilated the military detachment, killing Grattan and his 29 men. Author Douglas Hartman explains the anecdote in his book, Nebraska’s Militia: The History of the Army and Air National Guard.

The “Grattan Massacre” (aka “the Mormon Cow War”)—and the federal government’s failure to fulfill treaty promises—incited bands of Sioux to continue terrorizing settlers on the Mormon and Oregon trails. To augment federal troops, on Dec. 23, 1854, acting Gov. Thomas Cuming issued a proclamation creating the Nebraska Territorial Militia, which later became the National Guard.

The proclamation recommended “the citizens of the territory organize, in their respective neighborhoods, into volunteer companies,” which were grouped into two regiments: one north of the Platte River and one south. Cuming further instructed, “Companies are not to use force in invading or pursuing hostile tribes, but only in self-defense, and then no longer than necessary.”

Funding did not exist, however, so the early militiamen were expected to provide their own arms and equipment. By spring 1855, the state’s first organized units were formed: the Fontanelle Rifles in the town of Fontanelle, some 40 miles north of Omaha, and the Otoe Rifles in Nebraska City. Nebraska Gov. Mark Izard ordered the Rifles to protect Fontanelle, Elkhorn City, and Tekamah after “the Sioux” killed two area settlers. The Indians were nowhere to be found when the militia arrived, so troops spent the summer catching large-channel catfish from the Elkhorn River while “protecting” settlers. This became known as the “Catfish War,” writes Hartman.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Nebraska militias became more involved in fighting against tribes, since most of the nation’s federal military was consumed by the war, says Jerry Meyer, historian for the Nebraska National Guard. Additionally, two Nebraska volunteer militia units fought for the Union in the Southeast.

When Nebraska achieved statehood March 1, 1867, it joined a nation in transition. With the war over, potential recruits had little interest in joining formal militia units, which the new state couldn’t afford to equip anyway.

Nebraska relied on loosely organized, independent militias until 1881, when legislation reorganized them into the Nebraska National Guard, increasing its role as a peacekeeper during times of civil unrest, settling conflicts with Native American tribes, and deploying the first Nebraska troops internationally for the Spanish-American War.

The Nebraska Militia of 1854-1867 wrote the opening chapters of an ongoing legacy of service to the nation, state, and communities. The tradition continues with today’s modern Nebraska Army and Air National Guard, says Lt. Col. Kevin Hynes, spokesman for the Guard’s Public Affairs office.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 10,000 Nebraska National guardsmen and airmen have supported missions overseas and within the United States. When not on federal active duty, the service members remain in Nebraska, available to local authorities during emergency situations.

The Guard was instrumental in protecting Omaha and other Nebraska communities, for example, during the 2011 Missouri River flood, which threatened Eppley Airfield and OPPD power plants. The summer-long flood closed numerous traffic bridges, making it impossible to cross the river for more than 100 miles between Sioux City and Omaha, and between Omaha and Kansas City. Hynes says guardsmen provided surveillance and bolstered levees, and they also provided security for evacuated homeowners.

Currently, the Nebraska Army National Guard is undergoing its largest force restructuring in 20 years. Affecting about 1,100 Nebraska soldiers–or roughly one in three–the changes are bringing in new military occupational specialties, such as engineering and military police.

The realignment will provide current soldiers and those interested in joining with better opportunities for personal and professional growth, from the time they enlist until the time they retire, without having to travel extensively from their hometown communities.

The Nebraska National Guard Museum, located in Seward, Nebraska, is a prime resource for National Guard history, research, and local entertainment. Visit nengm.org for more information about the museum.

Famous Omaha Guardsmen

Warren Buffett

Long before becoming the “Oracle of Omaha,” he was simply Corporal Buffett, enlisting with the Nebraska Army National Guard in 1951 after graduating from Columbia University. The future Berkshire Hathaway founder served six years as a pay specialist, telling the Prairie Soldier newspaper that his financial background probably had something to do with the assignment. One of about 70 members of the Omaha-based 34th Infantry Division Headquarters Company, Buffett told the newspaper of the Nebraska Army and Air National Guard that his fellow guardsmen were “as good of a group of guys that you could’ve found.”

Andrew Jackson Higgins

Expelled his senior year from Omaha’s Creighton Prep for brawling in the early 1900s, Higgins later was praised by President Dwight Eisenhower as the man who won World War II. He designed and built the “Higgins Boat,” a landing craft that unloaded troops across open beaches instead of at heavily guarded ports. This Allied attack strategy was pivotal to the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Higgins served in the Nebraska Army National Guard, attaining the rank of first lieutenant, and learned about boat building and moving troops over water during militia maneuvers on the Platte River. A historical marker honors him in Columbus, Nebraska.

Visit ne.ng.mil to learn more about the Nebraska National Guard.

This article printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Java Journey

April 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Like many who guzzle black gold, Sagar Gurung started downing coffee purely for utilitarian reasons.

The taste—he could have done without.

Sagar Gurung

“I started for the caffeine,” Gurung says. “When I took that first sip, I said, ‘What the hell is this? It’s bitter.’ I would add a lot of sugar, milk, and cream to it.”

Gurung has come a long way in his java journey. He is the founder and part-owner of one of Omaha’s newest non-chain caffeine joints, Himalayan Java Coffee House. It launched in June 2016 at 329 S. 16th St., across from the Orpheum Theater on Harney Street.

Not that long ago, what Gurung knew about coffee didn’t amount to a hill of beans. He has worked as a business analyst (currently for Valmont Industries) after earning a degree in computer science from Bellevue University in 2004. Gurung was born in Chitwan, Nepal, but lived mostly in India until he moved to Omaha in the 10th grade to live with his older sister. He graduated from Omaha Gross High School.

He took regular trips back home to Nepal, and it was during one of those trips that he went from coffee novice to coffee aficionado. The spark was a visit to Himalayan Java Coffee, a franchise launched in 1999 by Gagan Pradhan and Anand Gurung in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

Nepal is mostly a tea-loving country, but Pradhan and Anand Gurung were changing that with a concept utilizing small coffee farmers whose harvest had mostly been going outside the country. Nepalese farmers were more likely to grow millet or maize than they were coffee, which wasn’t introduced to the country until 1938 by a hermit who brought seeds from Myanmar (then Burma).

By the 1970s Nepalese farmers were beginning to pay attention to coffee as a serious cash crop. Today, it’s grown in nearly three dozen districts, thriving in one of the highest elevations in the world.

Pradhan and Anand Gurung, according to Sagar, “introduced coffee to Nepal,” showing countrymen how it should be planted, raised, roasted, brewed, and imbibed. Their efforts resonated—today, more than 20 Himalayan Java shops have been introduced in Nepal.

On Sagar’s first visit to Himalayan Java Coffee in Nepal, “I instantly loved everything they were doing,” he says. He began to lobby the duo to let him bring their brand and their coffee to his adopted homeland. He also proposed the idea to Nepalese friends who lived in Omaha, asking them to join as partners.

Finally, the founders relented. “I think they just wanted to make me stop bugging them.”

The Nepalese founders are more like “strategic partners” than they are franchisees, Sagar says, but the Omaha Himalayan Java buys all its coffee from its Nepalese counterpart.

It’s a competitive market in Omaha, dominated by national and local chains. Sagar says such competition only gave him more reason to launch Himalayan Java here. And none of the others in Omaha can offer the distinct Arabica flavor available in his store.

“Coffee has a natural tendency to embody its environment,” Sagar says. “So the taste you get is very unique to the area you grow in.”

He appears to have picked an ideal location for the startup. Customers come frequently from the Orpheum across the street, of course, but Himalayan Java also gets employees from nearby Union Pacific, First National, OPPD, other downtown businesses, students from Creighton and UNMC, and downtown denizens.

Himalayan Java offers a full complement of caffeinated beverages—espressos, cappuccinos, mochas, lattes, and more. The No. 1 seller, Sagar says, is the “Dark Roast 4.” The menu also includes sandwiches, soups, and salads.

Sagar says customer retention has been strong and that word-of-mouth marketing has helped  Himalayan Java enjoy 15- to 20-percent growth month over month. Enough that he’s had at least preliminary discussions about expanding to a second store.

He’s also heard from enough customers that he plans to introduce some home-cooking with a menu that should include Nepalese goat and chicken curry; “thukpa,” an intensely flavored noodle soup; and “momos,” spicy Nepalese dumplings typically filled with marinated minced meat.

“I want to introduce Nepali items you can’t get anywhere else in town,” he says.

For now, though, he’s intent on making sure Himalayan Java makes a name for itself with its roasts — something customers should recognize just steps inside.

“We are a coffee house, and it is a beautiful thing to walk into a store and the aroma hits you,” he says.

It took him a while to get there, but he says the taste is even better.

“Now I like my coffee dark with no sugar, no milk, or cream,” Sagar says. “I just love the way our coffee tastes.”

He’s hoping more and more Omahans will agree.

Visit himalayanjavausa.com for more information.

This article was published in the May/June edition of The Encounter.

Morally Mute

March 3, 2016 by

“While at work a few months ago,” a local businessperson once related to me, “I was with a couple of employees talking not about anything in particular, just chatting about random things.

One of the people brought up another co-worker’s sexuality (they were not present). This person was very vocal about their beliefs and disgust of homosexuality. I was uncomfortable with the comments being made. I picked up my coffee mug and said, ‘I have to get to work’ and left. But afterwards I felt guilty. Should I have done something differently?”

The uncomfortable situation concerned sexuality, but it could just as easily have been about a coworker’s race, religion, or economic status. Someone talks negatively about a co-worker and the words cut deep. We don’t agree, but remain silent. Then we chastise ourselves for our weakness. We hit ourselves. We are bad, bad, bad for not being stronger.

But then again, are we weak and bad? Or are we just smart? The workplace is about getting the job done. When is it our role to engage a person in what could easily become a shouting match about ethics?

When we believe in our gut that something is wrong but don’t speak out about it, we are “morally mute.” Notice that muteness itself can sometimes be a good thing. Biologists tell us that it is a survival mechanism. It is a technique mankind learned in order to protect ourselves from the prowling lions and tigers. The species that knows how to remain silent in the face of danger is the species that outlives others.

On the other hand, muteness can also be a downfall. If we don’t scream when we see a car is about to run into us, a distracted driver may miss a potentially lifesaving alert. Making our presence known and not being mute can also be a very good thing.

So when is moral muteness right or wrong? When should we remain silent, and when
should we speak up at work?

An answer to these questions comes from reflecting on our motivations. Moral muteness is wrong when it is a result of rationalization. If we are silent about our moral beliefs just because we want don’t want to rock the boat, we want to fit in, or we don’t want to mess up the team, then we are rationalizing. These rationalizations tend to arise because of fear, but it is always our role to protect each other from the oncoming car, so to speak. And we might be scared because we don’t have the tools to express our beliefs in a way that doesn’t end in a shouting match, or analogously, that doesn’t run both the driver and the pedestrian off the road.

Like most things in life, moral muteness is overcome with practice.

Some of the best firms in Omaha have initiatives for employees to practice their communication skills in role-playing ethical scenarios with colleagues they trust. I know of at least 16 organizations that do this, both for-profit and non-profit: Access Bank, Arbor Bank, Avenue Scholars, Centris Federal Credit Union, the Douglas County Treasurer’s office, General Service Bureau/Early Out, Heartland Family Service, Hayes & Associates, Kiewit, Mutual of Omaha, NECA, NEI Global Relocation, OPPD, Seldin Company, and SilverStone Group.

These firms deserve a shout-out because they recognize that employees who know how to overcome moral muteness become stronger as individuals. Their teams are made hardier, more resilient. And those are assets that go straight to the bottom line.

iStock_000006005093_Large

Q&A: Dan Cullinane

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Midwest Iron Doors’ designer Dan Cullinane designs unique metal artworks for building exteriors and interiors. His creations grace the doorways of some of Omaha’s finest residences. We asked Cullinane about the design process, where he gets his inspiration, and how the company is poised for growth.

Q: Tell us a bit about your personal background. How did you come to work for Midwest Iron Doors?

A: I grew up in Papillion and went to school there as well. I’ve always had an interest in art, and I enjoyed drawing a lot as a child. My family’s business was in construction, so I grew up enjoying building and creating things. I still do. For years, I worked for the owner, Ryan [Steele], on and off between my deployments in the Army and while I worked for OPPD. Then, Ryan offered me a full-time job, and I left my position to help him grow Midwest Iron Doors. Ryan is definitely my mentor. He is successful at everything he does and is very dedicated to all aspects of his companies. He’s not afraid to take risks.Hofer-Sanctuary-1_Web

Q: Tell us a bit about your product and the company. What makes Midwest Iron Doors unique?

A: We are the only iron door company in the U.S. that offers a true thermally-broken door. These doors provide thermal insulation while maintaining maximum structural strength. This is our own patent-pending design. The thermal break design is the brainchild of me, Ryan Steele, and Lane Hinton. We started the design with a simple drawing on a dry erase board two years ago and after working long hours to create prototypes and deal with redesigns, we came to where we are today. Our doors range from around $3,000 to whatever the customer wants. We’re in the middle of transitioning to a supplier and setting up dealers across the U.S. We currently have five dealers in Iowa, three dealers in Nebraska, and one dealer in Kansas.

Q: What is the process for creating one of your original works?

A: Our doors start out as an openingdrawn into a blueprint. We take that opening and the vision of the homeowner and create something that is not only a door but an expression of who they are. The most creative part is taking what a customer has in their mind and turning it into a design on paper. The most challenging is definitely the construction aspect of the doors and ensuring that the customer gets the highest quality.Scott-Carson-Door_Web

Q: Besides ideas from customers, what inspires your designs? Tell us about one of your
favorite projects.

A: There are many things that inspire our door designs. We take into account shapes from nature, the architecture in surrounding buildings, and pieces of art that may have a special meaning to someone. One of my favorite projects was last year’s Street of Dreams home for Absolute Customs. The home’s interior designer, Sallie Elliott, went with a vintage Omaha decorating theme. We were asked to contribute, and I drew inspiration from the Joslyn Castle when creating a front door for the home.

Q: Who makes up Midwest Iron Doors’ clientele? How do you market your products?

A: Our customers are generally mid- to high-end homeowners who want to add a detail to their home that sets them apart. Our doors are used for home entries, wine cellars, and even commercial and apartment buildings. We recently supplied doors for a historic dorm remodel at Kansas University. We market our product by putting ads in numerous direct mail publications. We also do four home shows a year, and we supply doors to builders who are in the Street of Dreams. We had four doors in last year’s Street of Dreams and already have two doors in progress for this year’s Street of Dreams and are hoping to add to that number.Deats-2-Copy_Web

Q: Tell us a bit about you personally.

A: My wife, Jessica, and I have been married for over five years now. I have one boy, 18 months, and a newborn son born in April. I enjoy spending time with my family, whether that means walking the trails by our home or catching a bite to eat somewhere in town.