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Florida Water Hack Gives Utilities Companies a Cybersecurity Wake-Up Call

A recent incident occurred in Florida regarding a hacker attempting to tamper with a city’s water supply in Florida, which should be a good wake-up call for utility companies everywhere. It’s an event that should give the government a nudge into considering better ways to protect critical infrastructures from these types of attacks in the future.

What Happened

The story behind the hacker’s attempt to wreak havoc on the water supply included an attacker using software that provided remote access to a public water treatment facility to increase the level of sodium hydroxide to a dangerous amount. This is the main ingredient in drain cleaners, which is normally used in small quantities to adjust pH levels.

Luckily, someone was monitoring the systems and noticed that there was a problem and the city was able to avoid a catastrophic situation. However, it’s not to say that more couldn’t be done to avoid this type of circumstance from unfolding at a later date. There’s now a demand for the government to step in and help out versus this responsibility falling on the shoulders of the local regulatory authority.

The Importance of Cybersecurity

The reality is that even a company like a water treatment plant needs to ensure proper security is in place. Cybersecurity makes it that much harder for a hacker to take measures such as this and cause havoc on the water supply and community. It’s a chance for water utilities and the government to respond appropriately and take action to avoid a similar occurrence happening down the road.

Best practices must be put in place such as everyone using a unique password and changing it often, limiting who can access the systems, and installing firewall protection.

Ramifications for Ignoring Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity for water treatment and supply networks is only loosely monitored at the federal level and is often ignored by state utility commissions that may have limited cybersecurity expertise and tend to focus on water quality. No one seems to put much thought into it until they break or something goes wrong. The challenging part is that many attacks are not reported or fall off the radar and aren’t disclosed.

There are several ramifications and consequences for ignoring cybersecurity and not putting the proper protective measures in place. For example, people and civilians could become seriously ill and hurt from the lack of security within utility companies and water treatment plants. Customers also begin to lose trust in the utility companies and government which damage relationships and the opportunity to work together to make the situation better.

Next Steps

It’s apparent that action needs to be taken and more security and protection are needed, even at water treatment plants. Municipal water utilities tend to be underfunded and under-resourced, which makes them a perfect target for cyber attacks. 

An MSP can help establish the right cybersecurity protocol for a business. Check out IT services in Lakeland for more information and to find ways to improve your cybersecurity. It’s time to take these attacks seriously and implement cybersecurity best practices and new protocols.