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Water utilities armed against cyber threats

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Water utilities armed against cyber threats

Cybersecurity for public infrastructure systems, such as water utilities, has been making national news headlines recently.

This stems from bad actors attempting to hack or otherwise compromise the technology that controls important aspects of water treatment.

A recent Associated Press article states, “Attempts by private groups or individuals to get into a water provider’s network and take down or deface websites aren’t new. More recently, however, attackers haven’t just gone after websites, they’ve targeted utilities’ operations instead.”

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) and other water sector partners are strong advocates of establishing a collaborative oversight system to help water systems protect against cyber attacks.

“Strong cybersecurity measures are essential to ensuring a cyber incident does not threaten public health,” Kevin Morley of AWWA recently testified at a congressional hearing. “Water systems need resources and regulatory oversight designed to mitigate the potential risks from cyberattacks around the clock, every day of the year.”

Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would create cybersecurity oversight involving people with experience in the water sector working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This oversight model combines the experience and knowledge of water sector professionals with the expertise to protect the nation’s water infrastructure.

Most water systems use physical infrastructure, such as gates, surveillance cameras and security guards, to protect themselves and the water supply they treat and distribute to consumers. Per America’s Infrastructure Act of 2018, water utilities serving 3,300 or more people must take stock of their cybersecurity vulnerabilities and have plans in place to reduce the impact of those attacks so they have the appropriate infrastructure and software in place to protect against cyber threats.

Having the right equipment and staff to develop and maintain strong cybersecurity systems is essential for water systems. Just as water systems pay to protect their water supply from physical attacks, they are also paying for cybersecurity.

U.S. water systems are diligently preparing to defend themselves against cyber threats from bad actors, whether on the screen or in real life.

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