Cyber Security

Why the White House is focused on community-level water cybersecurity

Why the White House is focused on community-level water cybersecurity
Written by ga_dahmani
Why the White House is focused on community-level water cybersecurity

As a society, we are heading into a more turbulent period with growing geopolitical conflicts. With that, new lines of attack. are that is opening up, that it will be more coordinated, more complex and better funded than anything we have seen before. The era in which cyberattacks are limited to obvious financial and military targets is also over.

Although previous attempts to violate the organization networks of water and compromising American water supplies have not been very successful (yet), the threat of a cyber attack occurring anywhere at any time is enough to justify putting the full weight of technology and experience behind the security of America’s water infrastructure . Just one problem: Water and wastewater cybersecurity is largely the responsibility of traditionally sub-federal plants and utilities that are often forced to make do with limited resources, operating through a patchwork of outdated software systems.

The recent White House extension Biden’s public-private cyber task force on water and wastewater is an exciting and imperative development. It is a federal measure that will deliver immediate technology-driven local benefits to public health and safety. However, for this effort to be successful, it is important to appreciate that a water authority in a rural town in Utah, Tennessee, or Vermont must be just as concerned about cybersecurity and threat detection as a metropolis like Miami, Los Angeles, or New York City. .

Hackers and the tools they use to attack or attempt to infiltrate networks undetected are more sophisticated than ever. When it comes to America’s national network of water and wastewater systems, cyber risks extend beyond IT and data vulnerabilities to public health and security in the physical world. A hackable drawbridge or row of streetlights puts communities at risk of inconvenience. A vulnerable water supply or sewage plant that can infiltrate and become dangerous in many ways endangers human lives.

And then there is the issue of resilience in the face of extreme weather, like the freeze that knocked out power in Texas last year, intensifying hurricane seasons plaguing the Atlantic coast, the mega drought westward and other natural forces that affect the safety of the infrastructure. People can live without electricity or transportation for long periods of time. They simply cannot live without access to water services. Resilience is key to ensuring that systems, including water and wastewater, perform in the most extreme conditions.

As we have seen with the COVID pandemic, public health issues tend to get caught up in a larger and increasingly political conversation about truth and trust. For example, even though the United States has some of the highest quality drinking water (most of the time) on the planet, it is common for people to turn to bottled water, which can have up to 10 times more chemicals and/or contaminants than bottled water. municipal water. While public trust in institutions, from municipalities to the press, has also hesitated In recent years, it remains crucial to provide accurate information to the public as quickly as possible, especially in crisis situations such as a cyber attack on a sewage plant.

Simply put, building trust with the public is just as important as implementing cybersecurity technology and building infrastructure that actively protects water and wastewater resources.

US cities and towns must combine technology with strategy and information sharing to successfully limit or, ideally, extinguish cyber threats to America’s water and wastewater systems. It is not enough to have the best hardware or software. You need people who understand that the threats to water and wastewater resources are more sophisticated than ever. People who know that attackers often find ways around firewalls, complex passwords, authentication software, security protocols, and even physical barriers. And people who want to learn new, more sophisticated ways to protect the very systems (digital and physical) that hackers might be looking for.

The meaning of national security in the US expands with each new threat (Foreign and domestic), technology, modernization of infrastructures and sector in digital transformation. So it’s good to see that the White House cyber task force is action oriented and realistic about the enormity of the charge to protect America’s increasingly digital water and wastewater systems.

I am particularly intrigued by the group’s dual promise to 1) help local water companies prepare for cyber threats with strategic planning sessions and technical monitoring solutions and 2) establish a federal mechanism that allows local authorities to share data cybersecurity with peers in the US

President Biden’s decision to extend the cyber task force to water and wastewater underscores the critical importance of water to everyone in the United States. Protecting the water that flows through natural and utility-operated systems to reach homes from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon is a noble and vital undertaking. And as global events with local implications like the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions around the world persist, I am hopeful that the task force 100 day plan it will be carried out in an agile, thoughtful, strategic and technological manner. I am also optimistic that the conversation between the public and private sectors around cybersecurity in the US will include water and wastewater from now on.

It is fair to say that a lot depends on it.

David Lynch is co-founder and CEO of klirbased in Reno, Nevada.

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