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December 19, 2023

How to Protect U.S. Water Treatment Facilities from Rising Cybersecurity Threats

Water treatment facilities are critical for their communities but inadequate or outdated cybersecurity measures could leave them vulnerable to hackers. Prevent hackers from taking control of vital infrastructure and posing a serious public health threat to nearby residents with basic deterrents such as a next-generation firewall and other cybersecurity strategies to provide ongoing support and monitoring to keep one of our most precious resources protected. Outsourcing certain cybersecurity tasks can also potentially help keep overhead costs low while receiving experienced, specialized services.

Key Takeaways:

  • Network attacks on critical infrastructure such as water treatment facilities and health care organizations have increased in recent years amid global turmoil
  • A recent attack against a small municipal water authority highlights security concerns for similar facilities across the United States, prompting greater scrutiny of their cybersecurity policies
  • An outsourced managed technology services partner can help small facilities augment their staff with experienced professionals
  • Outsourcing cybersecurity to a third-party can help small or remote facilities access additional technology infrastructure without the overhead costs of maintaining them

Water Authority Cyber Attack Amplifies Need for Cybersecurity Update

An Iranian hacker group called “Cyber Av3ngers” was recently identified as the hackers behind multiple cyber attacks on American institutions, including a breach at a small western Pennsylvanian municipal water authority. The deputy national security adviser said in an interview that a recently scrapped EPA rule that would have required U.S. public water systems to include cybersecurity testing in their regular federally mandated audits could have “identified vulnerabilities that were targeted in recent weeks.” The current administration unveiled a cybersecurity plan earlier in the year calling for additional protections for critical sectors that could include federal regulations to prevent devastating breaches in the future.

Hacked Water Treatment Plants Create Catastrophes

The consequences of an inefficient cybersecurity strategy can be catastrophic for water utilities. Hackers could potentially take over the plant’s network, holding it hostage in a ransomware attack and disrupting operations for a critical part of a community’s infrastructure. A successful cyberattack could halt the treatment and supply of clean water if the hacker manages to manipulate the control systems to shut down pumps or alter chemical levels.

To mitigate these risks, water treatment facilities must prioritize cybersecurity by implementing robust security measures, regularly updating and patching systems, conducting thorough risk assessments, training staff in cybersecurity best practices and maintaining a proactive incident response plan to address potential threats promptly. If these crucial tasks can’t be managed in-house, consider outsourcing them to a third-party managed technology services partner.

Benefits of Outsourcing Cybersecurity for Water Treatment Plants

Some water facilities may lack the in-house team to implement or update a cybersecurity strategy, but a small or even nonexistent team doesn’t have to hold you back from proactive protection of this critical infrastructure sector. A managed technology service outsourcing partner can provide several services to water treatment plants to set up cybersecurity policies, monitor networks for intrusions and manage patch and software updates to maintain a secure environment, to name a few.

These services, and others like them, are often scalable and can be customized to fit your unique needs. For instance, a firewall with a few basic features can protect against attacks when properly configured. Outsourced managed service providers can install a firewall as a short-term project or even maintain it long-term to ensure it remains updated and effective.

Water treatment facilities are too precious a resource for the community to leave unprotected. A sound, comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes advanced threat protection, constant monitoring and a disaster response plan can help keep hackers at bay. Outsourcing can provide these services and more to keep your plant running securely for potentially less overhead costs than hiring and maintaining an in-house IT team.

Partnering with Anders Technology advisors helps organizations stay protected against evolving cyber threats by developing and maintaining a personalized cybersecurity strategy tailored to business needs. Learn more about how our advisors can enhance your technology plan, and the associated fees, by requesting a meeting below.

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