ARGUMENT: Water systems securityWater Systems Vulnerable to Cyberthreats

Published 4 August 2021

In February, a hacker tried to manipulate the water utility’s computers in Oldsmar, Fla. so that the level of lye in the water would be raised. Joel Griffin writes that “had the perpetrator not been caught…. this cyber-attack could have resulted in actual physical harm to residents and potentially even deaths. The simplicity of this cyber-attack … also illustrates the gravity of the situation facing water utilities,” as they try to implement contemporary IT security solutions to decades-old equipment ad operational technology.

Joel Griffin writes in SecurityInfoWatch:

Ransomware attacks have garnered much of the cybersecurity headlines this year given their impact on industry supply chains and critical infrastructure operations. But among the most eye-opening incidents occurred in Oldsmar, Fla., in February of this year when a malicious actor attempted to raise the level of lye in the city’s water supply.

Had the perpetrator not been caught tampering with the system by a facility employee, this cyber-attack could have resulted in actual physical harm to residents and potentially even deaths. The simplicity of this cyber-attack ­­– compromising a remote access software program installed on the employee’s computer – also illustrates the gravity of the situation facing water utilities as they oftentimes employ decades-old operational technology (OT) systems and attempt to create a patchwork security plan using various IT and IoT solutions they’ve been connected to over the years.

On Tuesday, ThreatLocker issued a report — Protecting Water Infrastructure Against Cyberattacks – detailing the vulnerability of water systems. ThreatLocker CEO Danny Jenkins told Griffin that the lack of investment in cybersecurity at the municipality level is very concerning given the criticality of water resources.

“They have to operate this old equipment and water (infrastructure) that has been around for a long time…. Before IT even existed, water was pumping through pipes, so what’s very unique about water, in particular, is your dealing with very few systems that have been updated or integrated into modern systems. So, you’re potentially taking these old systems that have been around for 20, 30, 40, or 50 years, and finding ways to make them work with new systems.”

Leave a comment

Register for your own account so you may participate in comment discussion. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to abide by our Comment Guidelines, our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Use. Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief. Names are displayed with all comments. Learn more about Joining our Web Community.

Hits: 3

Supply chains, resilience, supply chains security, hybrid cars Iran, drones, oil tankers | Homeland Security Newswire