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Securing the water supply: protecting citizens and systems from cyber threats

  • Securing the water supply: protecting citizens and systems from cyber threats

About the blog

Kev Eley
Vice President Sales, Europe at LogRhythm.
ACCIONA

Across the globe millions of communities, ecosystems and businesses depend on having reliable access to the water supply. It not only provides drinking and wastewater for citizens, but also supports crucial industries including the agricultural sector. 

According to The Business Research Company, the global water and sewage market size is expected to grow from $578.41 billion in 2021 to $631.08 billion this year, making the industry a high target for cybercriminals.

To drive digitalisation and optimise operational efficiencies, the water utilities industry is continuously investing in new technologies to improve the reliability of key processes. However, with the increasing need for systems to interact with external devices —such as smart meters as part of the Internet of Things (IoT)—the cyberattack landscape has expanded, leaving water utilities more vulnerable to network threats.

As more cybercriminals seek to exploit new vulnerabilities in the convergence of IT and operational technology (OT), it’s crucial for security teams to secure their networks for critical infrastructure resilience and performance.

Combatting Critical Threats

Like many key critical infrastructure sectors, the water industry is facing increased cybersecurity challenges.

In a recent incident, Staffordshire's main water company—with around 1.6 million customers— was targeted by a ransomware group known as Cl0p, who attempted to cause disruption to its corporate IT systems.

Security risks within water utilities are a growing concern. Even though the attack didn’t affect water supplies, it demonstrated the urgent need for security teams to protect critical infrastructure from targeted attacks.

Like many key critical infrastructure sectors, the water industry is facing increased cybersecurity challenges

Effectively protecting citizens from emerging risks requires a robust security strategy. Security teams need to be armed with advanced detection, protection, and mitigation capabilities to overcome evolving threats. There are a number of key security tools a security information and event management (SIEM) platform can provide to help establish a stronger cybersecurity posture for water utilities.

Real-time Visibility

Eliminating blind spots across operations gives comprehensive visibility into IT and OT environments. Water utilities can collect data from physical, virtual, and cloud sources to ensure complete visibility across the network.

With real-time visibility, security teams can spot and catch anomalies and security threats, while shutting down attacks, enabling them to successfully keep their organisation safe.

Faster Threat Detection

When it comes to stopping threats, seconds matter. By deploying intuitive detection and response capabilities, water utilities can uncover hidden threats, prioritise the security incident that poses the greatest liability and respond faster than ever before. Machine learning and scenario-based analytics can surface emerging threats as they occur so security teams can act faster.

With the right security foundation in place, utilities providers can protect themselves against cyber threats while continuing to evolve their operations

Compliance Assurance

As well as reducing the risk of falling victim to cyberattacks, utilities providers also need to ensure they take sufficient steps to satisfy data and security regulations.

With compliance also key to reducing risk, a SIEM platform that offers out-of-the box compliance modules can enable water utility providers to keep up with changes to often complex regulations. Compliance modules can be automated to help security teams comply with regulations more efficiently and effectively than they could using manual processes.

A Critical Response for Critical Utilities

The level of risk that critical infrastructure operators are exposed to has undoubtedly increased in recent years. The priority for water utilities is to balance innovation with agile cybersecurity capabilities.

With the right security foundation in place, utilities providers can protect themselves against cyber threats while continuing to evolve their operations.

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