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New U.S. cybersecurity bill targets water system protections

  • New U.S. cybersecurity bill targets water system protections
  • The proposed Water Risk and Resilience Organization Establishment Act would establish a specialized agency with cybersecurity and water system expertise.
  • The Water Risk and Resilience Organization (WRRO) represents a collaborative model leveraging the knowledge of the water sector.

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In response to the escalating threat of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, U.S. House lawmakers have unveiled a cybersecurity bill focused on safeguarding water and wastewater systems, informs Statescoop. Introduced by Representatives Rick Crawford and John Duarte, the proposed legislation would establish the Water Risk and Resilience Organization (WRRO), a specialized agency comprising cybersecurity and water system experts. This entity would work in partnership with the U.S. EPA to ensure practical and beneficial measures to enhance cybersecurity.

The urgency underlying this initiative stems from the growing sophistication of cyber threats, with foreign adversaries like Russia and China exploiting vulnerabilities in essential infrastructure. Recent incidents underscore the gravity of the situation, with water treatment plants and utilities falling victim to malicious attacks.

“This bill is a more proactive approach to safeguarding our drinking and wastewater from these types of attacks. These protections are vital at a time where cyber threats are constant and technology is evolving quickly”, said Rep. Crawford in a statement.

Last month the EPA and White House sent a letter to state governors asking for their support to ensure water systems assess their cybersecurity practices and identify any significant vulnerabilities, take action to reduce risks where needed, and implement plans to prepare for and respond to any cyber incidents.

Water industry leaders have shown support for the proposed Water Risk and Resilience Organization Establishment Act. “Reps. Crawford and Duarte’s vision for a collaborative model that leverages the knowledge of the sector is the right approach for protecting water utilities from cyber-attacks”, said American Water Works Association (AWWA) CEO David LaFrance in a statement.

The WRRO would be an independent organization composed of members with relevant experience in the water sector, working in partnership with the U.S. EPA, and would bring sector-specific experience and know-how to protect water infrastructure from cybersecurity threats, explains AWWA. Federal oversight and approval of requirements would be provided by the EPA.

The proposed collaborative approach is inspired by a similar model that has already been successfully implemented in the U.S. electric sector to fortify national resilience against cyber threats. 

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