Protect Wastewater Management Wastewater Security

How to Protect Wastewater Management Facilities Against Cyberattacks

Unfortunately, wastewater facilities have become a favorite target for cybercriminals. Cyberattacks on wastewater management facilities saw an increase of fifteen percent in 2021. These attacks could have led to dangerous consequences for ordinary citizens.

For example, in January, a cyberattack took place on a water treatment plant in San Francisco. The attacker gained remote access to the infrastructure. They, then, tried to poison the water treatment facility. 

Similarly, another attack happened on the Oldsmar water system a month later. In this attack, the cybercriminal was able to increase the sodium hydroxide content to dangerous levels. Luckily, the employees managed to return the levels back to normal.

These, and other incidents, have raised concerns over the security of wastewater management facilities. Questions are asked about why these facilities are so easily prone to cyberattacks. 

Well, there are some common factors that make wastewater management facilities an easy target for cybercriminals. Let’s take a look at some to understand what the vulnerabilities are and where exactly they lie.

A Look at the Cause of Cyberattacks on Wastewater Management Facilities

Wastewater systems are an integral part of the smooth functioning of any city. It ensures that contaminants are removed from the water, making it clean and safe for human use. Thus, the wastewater management plant, including the industrial infrastructure and devices, must be protected from all forms of attacks. This includes digital threats in the form of cyberattacks.

If we take a look at wastewater management facilities, we can find several common factors that can be linked to cyberattacks. These factors are:

Water Treatment Companies Don’t Spend Enough on IT Security

As per a report, about thirty-eight percent of companies in the water sector spend less than one percent of their budget on IT security. Similarly, about forty-five percent of water companies spend less than one percent on OT security. If you are unfamiliar with OT security, let us explain it to you.

See Also:   Trends Top Web Development Firms Use In 2021

So, what is OT security, you ask? Well, OT security stands for Operational Technology security. It refers to the use of hardware and software solutions to protect operational technology infrastructure, such as physical devices and assets used in various operations. They are designed to mitigate and prevent physical devices and industrial control systems (ICS) from cyberattacks. 

If there is a poor allocation of finances on IT and OT security, naturally, water companies are bound to become easily vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Water Companies Use Outdated Software

Even if water companies use IT and OT security systems, most companies tend to keep using old, outdated systems. These outdated systems are no match for the sophisticated cyber attacks of today.

In fact, old software systems mean extra vulnerabilities for the company. They provide an easy entry point for cybercriminals to get access to the system.

Read Also: The Benefits of Cyber Security Analytics Tools to Businesses

They Don’t Hire Talented Cybersecurity Professionals

Many wastewater management organizations don’t realize the importance of having a skilled cybersecurity workforce. If they invest in a good IT and OT security system, they feel that the job is done. But, to ensure cybersecurity is of the highest order, you need to have the right professionals as well.

These were the top causes that led to wastewater management plants falling easy victims to cyberattacks. Now, let’s take a look at the consequences the organizations have to face when a cyberattack takes place.

The Consequences of Cyberattacks on Wastewater Management Facilities

Cybercriminals attack wastewater management facilities with various malicious intents. Some may carry out a cyberattack for ransom purposes. Some criminals may have even sinister thoughts behind the attack, such as harming the health of innocent citizens.

See Also:   How to Add Signature In Outlook 2022

Whatever the case, cyberattacks on wastewater management facilities aren’t good. They can lead to disastrous outcomes. Here is a look at some of them.

Disruption of Operations

When a cyberattack takes place, the operations are hampered. This impacts the normal, day-to-day functioning of the facility.

Water Quality May Be Affected

As the machines don’t work as intended. This can impact the water quality adversely. Moreover, cybercriminals themselves can try to hamper the water quality and take it to dangerous levels, as seen earlier.

Infrastructure Damage

A cyberattack can leave the attacked hardware unusable. It can even cause damage to other infrastructural components.

Threat to Employee Safety

If the machines go awry, there are chances that it can lead to an unwanted incident at the facility. This puts the safety of the employees at risk. Cyberattacks can also compromise the employees’ sensitive data saved in any of the hacked hardware. 

Components May Work Outside Their Safe Limit

To compensate for the unusual functioning, the machines can automatically adjust and work outside their safe limit to bring everything back in order. This increases the chances of the machines getting damaged.

Now that we have looked at the causes and outcomes of cyberattacks let’s take a look at how wastewater management facilities can thwart them.

How Wastewater Management Facilities Can Be Protected Against Cyberattacks

Wastewater management facilities can be protected against cyberattacks by working on the shortcomings in their cybersecurity measures. Some of the methods of cyber protection include:

Implementing a Robust Cybersecurity Infrastructure

Wastewater management facilities need to implement a robust IT as well as OT infrastructure to protect their software and hardware from cyberattacks. These systems provide real-time monitoring of the hardware, software, and network. They also provide real-time updates of any unwanted, anomalous activity. This provides better protection against cyberattacks.

See Also:   10 Best Website Builders for Blogs - Blogging Platforms Free to Use

Using the Latest Software

Having software updated to the latest version provides better security. Updates contain bug fixes and patches that minimize the vulnerabilities in the system. Moreover, it also ensures that the devices run smoothly and provide new features.

Hiring a Talented Cybersecurity Team

Wastewater management facilities need to hire a robust, talented, and experienced team of individuals. They can better manage the cybersecurity measures in place and take better steps to mitigate attacks. Moreover, they can better manage the situation when a cyberattack does take place.

Recommended: Top Simple Cyber Security Tips for Small Businesses

Parting Thoughts

Wastewater management facilities are at an increased risk of cyberattacks. You never know when a cyberattack will impact your wastewater management facility and wreak havoc.

However, you can take simple steps, such as the ones mentioned above, to protect your industrial devices from such attacks. 

Read Next:

Get the scoop from us
Leave a Reply
You May Also Like