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White House and EPA issue warning on cybersecurity threats in water sector

  • White House and EPA issue warning on cybersecurity threats in water sector

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On Tuesday, the EPA and White House sent a letter to all U.S. Governors warning them that ‘disabling’ cyberattacks are targeting water systems across the nation. With this warning, Biden administration’s urged state authorities to allocate more resources and attention to protecting water utilities.

The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency extended an invitation to state officials in their letter, inviting them to attend a meeting scheduled for Thursday. The objective of this gathering is to deliberate on enhancing digital defenses for the vast network of over 150,000 utilities across the United States. Additionally, the EPA is taking proactive steps by establishing a water sector cybersecurity task force. This task force will identify key challenges confronting the sector and devise effective strategies to mitigate the looming threat. According to the press statement, these collaborative efforts should result in advances that will better protect the nation’s critical water infrastructure from cyberattacks.

“Drinking water and wastewater systems are a lifeline for communities, but many systems have not adopted important cybersecurity practices to thwart potential cyberattacks,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA and NSC take these threats very seriously and will continue to partner with state environmental, health, and homeland security leaders to address the pervasive and challenging risk of cyberattacks on water systems.”

With this warning, Biden administration’s urged state authorities to allocate more resources and attention to protecting water utilities

“The Biden Administration has built our national security approach on the foundational integration of foreign and domestic policy, which means elevating our focus on cross-cutting challenges like cybersecurity,” said National Security Advisory Jake Sullivan. “We’ve worked across government to implement significant cybersecurity standards in our nation’s critical infrastructure, including in the water sector, as we remain vigilant to the risks and costs of cyber threats. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the EPA to bolster the cybersecurity of America’s water and wastewater systems.”

Last year, the EPA had set out to enforce more rigorous cybersecurity regulations for water utilities. However, it was forced to call off its proposed mandate due to legal challenges posed against the initiative.

EPA’s initiative was part of a broader challenge in implementing stringent cybersecurity regulations across various critical infrastructure sectors. Many of these sectors lack regulation concerning cybersecurity, leaving them exposed to potential cyberattacks. With the absence of EPA rules, the water sector does not have binding cybersecurity regulations, underscoring the pressing need for regulatory action to fortify digital defenses and ensure the security of essential services. As was seen at the end of last year, when several water facilities across the U.S. were hacked by a group known as the Cyber Av3ngers, which is linked to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

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