On Tuesday, July 28th at 11am EST, the Economic and Trade Office at the Embassy of Israel is co-hosting an event with our local partner Cybersecurity Forum Initiative (CSFI) on cybersecurity in the water sector.
According to a report in the Financial Times, during an April cyber attack on Israel’s water infrastructure, Iranian hackers tried to increase chlorine levels in the water flowing to residential areas.
Hundreds of people would have been at risk of getting sick had the attack succeeded. According to the Financial Times, the “cyber attack on the water plant could have triggered fail-safes that would have left tens of thousand of civilians and farms parched in the middle of an Israel heatwave, as the pumping station shut down when the excess chemical was detected.In the worst-case scenario, hundreds of people would have been at risk of becoming ill.”
While it’s tempting to think of a mass casualty cyber attack on water infrastructure as being something that could not happen in the U.S., that would be a mistake. The U.S. has approximately 70,000 water and wastewater utilities, many of which are small and may possess minimal cybersecurity expertise among staff.
And unlike the electric industry, the water industry faces no overarching regulatory framework when it comes to cybersecurity. Some of the questions the panel will address are as follows:
- Just how real is the threat to US water infrastructure, how difficult would it be for cyber hackers to successfully pull off a major attack on US water infrastructure, and what could be the consequences?
- How would we compare the state of cybersecurity in the electric utility sector versus the water utility sector?
- To what extent are technological changes such as the OT/IT convergence and the implementation of “smart water” infrastructure increasing the attack surface and overall threat?
- What are the primary differences between cyber defense technology for ICS-OT versus cyber for traditional IT?
- Are there any particular technologies in Israel that are particularly applicable to the U.S. water?
- What are some of the lessons the U.S. water sector can learn from Israel, either regulatory or technological?
- What are some immediate steps we can take to strengthen cybersecurity in the U.S. water sector?