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Cybersecurity in smart water management: Remote management 4.0

  • Cybersecurity in smart water management: Remote management 4.0
Content by:María Del Prado Torrecilla

About the entity

Lacroix Group
LACROIX Sofrel is an industry specialist in the design and construction of telemetry and SCADA products for technical installations. Our expertise enables us to provide water network or HVAC installation contract operators.


The evolution of communication systems in the past few years has been exponential, leaving behind traditional systems to welcome IP communications through the Internet. Society is immersed in a digital transformation without precedent: process digitalisation, big data, information on line, all objects connected to the Internet (IoT), etc., leading to the emergence of new LPWAN technologies: Sigfox, LoRa, LTE-M, NBIoT.

All of these changes in our way of exchanging information — the emergence of new technologies, the transformation driven by the irruption of digital technologies — have been key for the development of industrial connected solutions in all domains and processes, including water networks, and within them, remote management as an essential tool for smart management.

But connected technologies are not without risks and hazards: being able to attack a water network can result in the perfect target for a criminal organisation, or for a disgruntled worker.

Cybersecurity or the capacity to protect and defend networks from cyberattacks is a primary concern of water operators, since water is a strategic sector with critical infrastructure which must always be in operation and does not allow for alternative solutions; any perturbation or destruction would have a severe impact on essential or necessary services for the maintenance of basic social functions, health, security, and the social and economic well-being of citizens.

Cybersecurity or the capacity to protect networks from cyberattacks is a primary concern of water operators

And this is a great opportunity for industry and for industrial cybersecurity. Increasing experience in this area and heightened awareness are facilitating the inclusion of cybersecurity requirements into the design of technologies, in new architectures and platforms that will provide support for interoperability among operations and information systems, to adopt the new industry 4.0 model.

Industrial cybersecurity used to involve merely the prevention of cyberattacks, but it has evolved to a more mature ecosystem where prevention comes together with the development of tools, techniques and procedures to ensure resilience; that is, the strength of organisations in a changing context such as that of smart water management.

Since the introduction of cybersecurity in remote management, we now talk about remote management 4.0.

Regulations on cybersecurity

According to European Directive 2016/1148 on the security of network and information systems (the NIS Directive), published in July 2016, Member States should adopt a national security strategy and technical and organisational measures to prevent, manage and react to cyber risks and attacks to networks and information systems within the Union. It is the responsibility of companies and entities that manage critical infrastructure and essential services (and water is one of them) to implement programmes to create a culture to manage and prevent risks and attacks, and react to them if they occur.

Spain has legislation on Critical Infrastructure Protection (Spanish Law 8/2011), complemented by Royal Decree 704/2011, and the recent transposition of the European Directive into Spanish legislation: Royal Decree 12/2018 of 8 September, regulating and strengthening the security of information networks and systems used by essential services; digital services and identification will involve the entities and procedures envisaged in the Law on Critical Infrastructure Protection.

Water is a strategic sector with critical infrastructure which must always be in operation and does not allow for alternative solutions

Sofrel S4 Ecosystem

To implement security in a remote management network, we must abide by the basic principles of in depth protection: data availability, confidentiality and integrity, authentication of users and network systems, and monitoring security exchanges.

At Lacroix Sofrel, aware of the digital transformation and the need to ensure our solutions have the highest level of security, while ensuring the autonomy of the user, we have developed the Sofrel S4 Remote Management Ecosystem, which answers to these principles and integrates a new S4W remote station specifically designed for water, including many remote management, communication and application functions. It has the following characteristics: simple to use, effective, resistant to harsh environments, flexible, powerful in automatisms, durable, compatible with existing and security solutions, authentication with digital certificates, encrypted communications, software signature and configurations. The ecosystem also includes other elements that contribute to security. That is the case of the S4-Manager, for centralised network management (user and configuration administrator), the VPN SG4000 server for safe public IP network communications and monitoring security traces.

In conclusion, the digital transformation affects remote management of the integrated water cycle. Cybersecurity is a key element  within the new remote management 4.0 concept, backed by increasingly more demanding regulations. All these changes intend to improve availability, efficiency and performance, ensuring safe water supply and treatment for citizens, which at the same time is environmentally sustainable. Operators have to choose appropriate technology to address these challenges simply, and at Lacroixx Sofrel we are ready to offer the best solutions in this new era. 


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