Possibility of Cyber-Attacks on U.S. Water Systems

(NY Times, 3/15/18)
On March 15, the Trump Administration accused Russia of creating a series of cyber-attacks on American and European water and electric systems, as well as nuclear power plants. These cyber-attacks could sabotage or shut off the plants—and are seen by US officials and private firms as a signal Russia could disrupt our critical facilities in the event of a conflict.

The hackers made their way to machines with access to critical control systems at power plants that were not identified. While they did not shut any down, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did reveal on Thursday that photos showed they would have the ability to shut down plants if desired.

Last June utility companies – specifically in the water, energy and aviation sectors- received warnings from the FBI and DHS about this critical concern—but yesterday was the first time Russia was specifically named as the perpetrator.

In the fall of 2017, WEF and other water associations sent a letter to Congress urging full funding for the EPA Office of Water’s Water Security Division (WSD), which provides valuable resources and support for water agencies help utilities protect critical water and wastewater infrastructure from terrorism, cyber-attacks and natural disasters and to recover from incidents and emergencies.

The US is struggling to come up with an appropriate response. However, Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, who has been nominated as Director of the National Security Agency and Commander of the US Cyber Command, said during his Senate confirmation hearing this month that countries attacking the US have little to worry about. “I would say right now they do not think much will happen to them. They don’t fear us,” he said.

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