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Water & Wastewater Industry

Network Visibility Software

NP-View operates offline, swiftly creating an accurate network topology without disrupting operations, allowing a quick understanding of your attack surface.

Do You Check for Overly Permissive Network Access?

A recent survey conducted by the Water Sector Coordinating Council found nearly 60% of respondents reported conducting cybersecurity risk assessments less than once a year or never.

While the digitization of water and wastewater systems brings operational efficiencies, it also introduces new risks, particularly in terms of cybersecurity.

US White House and EPA Warn Governors of Cyberattacks on Water Systems

The U.S. White House and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have alerted state governors to the threat of cyberattacks targeting water and wastewater systems. These attacks have the potential to disrupt the essential supply of clean and safe drinking water, leading to significant costs for affected communities.

Water and wastewater infrastructure is considered part of critical infrastructure, and any compromise in the cybersecurity of these systems could have severe consequences for public health and safety. Cyberattacks on water utilities could potentially lead to contamination of water supplies, disruptions in service, or even physical damage to infrastructure.

To address these concerns, there is a heightened emphasis on enhancing network visibility for cybersecurity in the water and wastewater industry. This involves deploying advanced monitoring and detection systems to continuously assess the integrity of the network, identify potential vulnerabilities, and detect anomalous activities that could indicate a cyber threat.

One notable challenge is that many water utilities may have legacy systems that were not originally designed with robust cybersecurity features. Upgrading and securing these systems while maintaining continuous operations is a complex task that requires a strategic approach to network visibility and cybersecurity.

  • Automated non-intrusive generation of comprehensive network topology maps which take the place of manual drawings that can quickly get outdated.
  • Optimize operations with network visualization models used to simplify complex network structures and enhance troubleshooting capabilities.
  • Enhanced network context provided within the topology map via imported network asset and vulnerability data.
  • Simplify ruleset analysis with unified table view, color highlights and annotations for security compliance verification and justification.
  • Save time and labor reviewing access rules with dynamic drill down to the exact source location in the configuration file and highlighting overly permissive rules.
  • Identify, mitigate, and minimize the potential cybersecurity impact of human error.
  • Gain instant visibility of the network environment’s segmentation policy.
  • Strengthen defenses and understanding of network segmentation policy by providing a visual matrix detailing zone-to-zone communication access permissions.
  • Document all communication pathways to and from critical assets.
  • Identify potential misconfigurations that enable unintended access permissions.

Water & Wastewater FAQ

The water and wastewater sector faces various cybersecurity vulnerabilities that could have significant consequences if exploited. Some of the key vulnerabilities include:

  1. SCADA and Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Vulnerabilities:

    • Many water and wastewater facilities rely on Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and ICS to monitor and control their operations. Vulnerabilities in these systems can be exploited to manipulate processes, disrupt operations, or cause physical damage.
  2. Legacy Systems and Outdated Infrastructure:

    • Some facilities in the water sector still use legacy systems that may have outdated security protocols and lack the latest security updates. These systems are often more susceptible to attacks as they may have known vulnerabilities that have not been patched.
  3. Interconnected Systems:

    • Increasing connectivity between IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) systems in the water sector creates additional points of entry for cyber attackers. If proper security measures are not in place, a compromise in one system could lead to vulnerabilities in others.
  4. Inadequate Security Awareness and Training:

    • Personnel in the water sector may not always be adequately trained in cybersecurity best practices. Human error, such as falling victim to phishing attacks or using weak passwords, can contribute to vulnerabilities.
  5. Supply Chain Risks:

    • Dependence on third-party vendors for equipment and software introduces supply chain risks. If these vendors have weak cybersecurity practices or if their products have vulnerabilities, they could be exploited to compromise the water and wastewater systems.
  6. Insufficient Incident Response and Recovery Plans:

    • Some facilities may lack comprehensive incident response and recovery plans. In the event of a cyber attack, a delayed or inadequate response can exacerbate the impact and prolong downtime.
  7. Physical Security Weaknesses:

    • Physical security is as important as cybersecurity in protecting critical infrastructure. Unauthorized physical access to facilities, equipment, or control systems could lead to compromise.
  8. Lack of Regular Security Audits and Assessments:

    • Regular cybersecurity audits and assessments are crucial for identifying and addressing vulnerabilities. Some facilities may not conduct these assessments regularly, leaving potential weaknesses undiscovered.
  9. Dependency on Remote Monitoring and Control:

    • While remote monitoring and control systems provide operational flexibility, they also introduce additional cybersecurity risks. If not properly secured, these systems can be exploited by malicious actors.
  10. Regulatory Compliance Challenges:

    • Compliance with cybersecurity regulations and standards can be challenging for some water and wastewater facilities. Failure to meet these requirements may expose them to increased risks.

Addressing these vulnerabilities requires a multi-faceted approach involving technology upgrades, employee training, robust cybersecurity policies, and collaboration with regulatory bodies and cybersecurity experts to enhance the overall resilience of the water and wastewater sector.

The risks in the water and wastewater industry are diverse and can have severe consequences for public safety, the environment, and the economy. Some key risks include:

  1. Disruption of Operations:

    • Cyberattacks can disrupt the normal functioning of water treatment and distribution systems, leading to service outages, water quality issues, and potential health hazards.
  2. Physical Damage to Infrastructure:

    • Malicious actors may attempt to manipulate control systems to cause physical damage to critical infrastructure, such as pumps, valves, and treatment facilities, leading to costly repairs and potential environmental damage.
  3. Contamination of Water Supply:

    • Unauthorized access to water treatment systems could result in the introduction of contaminants into the water supply, posing significant health risks to the population.
  4. Data Manipulation and Falsification:

    • Cyber attackers might manipulate data within the systems, leading to incorrect readings and mismanagement of water treatment processes. This could compromise the integrity of water quality monitoring and regulatory compliance.
  5. Financial Losses:

    • Operational disruptions, repair costs, and regulatory penalties resulting from a cybersecurity incident can lead to substantial financial losses for water and wastewater utilities.
  6. Public Health Risks:

    • Compromised water quality can pose immediate health risks to the public, leading to waterborne diseases and other health issues.
  7. Environmental Impact:

    • Cybersecurity incidents can have environmental consequences, such as the release of untreated or improperly treated wastewater into rivers and ecosystems.
  8. Loss of Public Trust:

    • A cybersecurity breach in the water and wastewater sector can erode public trust in the safety and reliability of the water supply. Restoring confidence may take considerable time and effort.
  9. Regulatory Consequences:

    • Non-compliance with cybersecurity regulations and standards may result in regulatory penalties, legal action, and increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies.
  10. Supply Chain Disruptions:

    • Cybersecurity incidents affecting vendors or suppliers in the water and wastewater sector can disrupt the supply chain, potentially leading to delays in equipment and service delivery.
  11. Critical Infrastructure Dependencies:

    • The water and wastewater industry is part of critical infrastructure, and disruptions can have cascading effects on other sectors, such as energy, transportation, and healthcare.
  12. Ransomware Threats:

    • Ransomware attacks can encrypt critical systems and demand payment for their release. Paying the ransom does not guarantee the recovery of systems and may encourage further attacks.
  13. Insider Threats:

    • Employees or contractors with malicious intent or unintentional errors can pose significant risks to cybersecurity within the industry.

Addressing these risks requires a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, including regular risk assessments, employee training, the implementation of robust security measures, incident response planning, and collaboration with cybersecurity experts and regulatory agencies.

Here are some relevant standards and guidelines that may be applicable to the water and wastewater industry:

  1. NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF):

    • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States has developed the Cybersecurity Framework, which offers a set of best practices and standards that organizations can use to manage and improve their cybersecurity risk management processes.
  2. ISA/IEC 62443 Series:

    • The International Society of Automation (ISA) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) have developed the ISA/IEC 62443 series, which focuses on the security of industrial automation and control systems (IACS). This series includes standards that are relevant to the protection of critical infrastructure, including water and wastewater facilities.
  3. ISO/IEC 27001:

    • ISO/IEC 27001 is an international standard for information security management systems. While it is not industry-specific, water and wastewater facilities can use it to establish, implement, maintain, and continually improve an information security management system.
  4. AWWA G430-14:

    • The American Water Works Association (AWWA) has published the AWWA G430-14 standard, titled “Security Practices for Operation and Management.” This standard provides guidelines for water utilities to enhance the security of their infrastructure, including cybersecurity considerations.
  5. EPA Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model (C2M2):

    • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed the Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model (C2M2) to help water utilities assess and improve their cybersecurity capabilities.
  6. EU NIS Directive:

    • In the European Union, the Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive sets out cybersecurity requirements for operators of essential services, including water and wastewater utilities. Member states are required to implement these requirements into national law.
  7. ICAC (International Critical Infrastructure Protection Committee) Guidelines:

    • ICAC provides guidelines for the protection of critical infrastructure, and these guidelines may include recommendations for cybersecurity in the water and wastewater sector.

It’s important for water and wastewater utilities to stay informed about the latest developments in cybersecurity standards and regulations relevant to their region. Additionally, engaging with industry associations, collaborating with cybersecurity experts, and participating in information-sharing initiatives can contribute to a more robust cybersecurity strategy. Always check for the most recent standards and guidelines applicable to your specific location and regulatory environment.