The FBI, DHS, US Secret Service, and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office have issued a joint situational report that concerns the water sector. EPA is providing critical information from this report to the WSCC and GCC for awareness. EPA recommends that all water systems implement the mitigation measures listed at the end of this report where applicable.
On 5 February 2021, unidentified cyber actors obtained unauthorized access, on two separate occasions, approximately five hours apart, to the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system used at a local municipality’s water treatment plant. The unidentified actors accessed the SCADA system’s software and altered the amount of sodium hydroxide, a caustic chemical, used as part of the water treatment process. Water treatment plant personnel immediately noticed the change in dosing amounts and corrected the issue before the SCADA system’s software detected the manipulation and alarmed due to the unauthorized change. As a result, the water treatment process remained unaffected and continued to operate as normal.
The unidentified actors accessed the water treatment plant’s SCADA controls via remote access software, TeamViewer, which was installed on one of several computers the water treatment plant personnel used to conduct system status checks and to respond to alarms or any other issues that arose during the water treatment process. All computers used by water plant personnel were connected to the SCADA system and used the 32-bit version of the Windows 7 operating system. Further, all computers shared the same password for remote access and appeared to be connected directly to the Internet without any type of firewall protection installed.
- Restrict all remote connections to SCADA systems, specifically those that allow physical control and manipulation of devices within the SCADA network. One-way unidirectional monitoring devices are recommended to monitor SCADA systems remotely.
- Install a firewall software/hardware appliance with logging and ensure it is turned on. The firewall should be secluded and not permitted to communicate with unauthorized sources.
- Keep computers, devices, and applications, including SCADA/industrial control systems (ICS) software, patched and up-to-date.
- Use two-factor authentication with strong passwords.
- Only use secure networks and consider installing a virtual private network (VPN).
- Implement an update and patch management cycle. Patch all systems for critical vulnerabilities, prioritizing timely patching of Internet-connected systems for known vulnerabilities and software processing Internet data, such as Web browsers, browser plugins, and document readers.
Available resources for utilities to access regarding cyber security include:
- Joining WaterISAC
- S. EPA Water Sector Cybersecurity Brief for States
- S. EPA Cybersecurity Best Practices for the Water Sector
- AWWA Resources on Cybersecurity
Utilities should also be prepared to answer any questions from customers regarding cybersecurity protections your utility has in place. Resources to assist your utility in communicating include:
- AWWA’s “Trending in an Instant”Risk Communication Guide (executive summary linked). You must be an AWWA member and logged in to org to access the complete guide.
- The orgquestions about “Water Emergencies” page.