Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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EPA Issues Nationwide Alert on Drinking Water

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A picture of EPA logo
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EPA Issues Nationwide Alert on Drinking Water

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued an enforcement alert to water utilities to take prompt action to protect America’s drinking water from cyber threats.

The warning comes after research revealed that 70% of examined US water systems don’t adhere to the cybersecurity standards outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act. Easily exploited single logins and out-of-date default passwords that are easily compromised are examples of vulnerabilities.

Ensuring Safety

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The warning aims to lessen cybersecurity and infrastructure susceptibilities in the country. EPA is sending out this advisory because there is a significant need for further action due to the rise in frequency and intensity of threats and attacks on the country’s water supply.

A key component of the EPA’s job is safeguarding the country’s drinking water supply. The agency is dedicated to using all available resources, including enforcement powers, to prevent cyberattacks on this vital infrastructure.

Committed To Help the Water Sector

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With direct access to subject matter experts who can help systems better comprehend cybersecurity concepts, EPA is dedicated to providing cybersecurity technical assistance to the water sector.

Furthermore, to support water systems in carrying out these crucial duties, the EPA will continue to provide advice, resources, training, instruments, and technical support. To guarantee safety, they will also continue to assess every water system.

AccThe Inspection

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Current EPA inspections have shown that more than 70% of water systems do not fully adhere to the Safe Drinking Water Act’s regulations.

Additionally, some of these systems have serious cybersecurity flaws, like easily exploitable single logins and abandoned default passwords.

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The Agency's Duty

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EPA is dedicated to collaborating with state and sector organization partners to safeguard drinking water for communities effectively.

The state and federal security and intelligence partners, along with the EPA, are still looking for vulnerabilities spurred by successful cyberattacks on water systems across the country.

Additional Responsibilities

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In addition to increasing the frequency of scheduled inspections, the agency will also pursue necessary civil and criminal enforcement actions in response to any circumstance that may pose a serious and immediate risk.

Inspections will verify that water utilities meet their obligations to create emergency response plans and routinely evaluate resilience weaknesses, including cybersecurity.

 

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Putting the Public at Risk

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According to the EPA, cyberattacks on water systems have the potential to impair chemical levels to dangerous levels, destroy pumps and valves, and interfere with treatment and storage.

This is because of the severe risk this presents to public health and safety; our country’s water infrastructure desperately needs strong cybersecurity protections.

Possible Solution

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The EPA should instruct the Office of Drinking Water to assess the possibility of deliberate falsification of test results or modification of the water sampling procedure to increase water systems’ compliance with program requirements.

For proper enforcement action to be taken, the Office should advise the states on how to best deter such actions by water systems and identify them when they occur.

Advice To Prevent Future Attacks

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The EPA’s advisory also noted that countries like China, Russia, and Iran have the potential to destroy U.S. water infrastructure in the future, having previously affected some of them through cyberattacks.

The worldwide scope of cybersecurity threats to vital U.S. infrastructure is demonstrated by this foreign component.

Possible Attack

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According to U.S. officials, a cyber gang called Volt Typhoon, associated with China, has gained access to information technology for several vital infrastructure systems, including drinking water systems, in the United States and its territories.

Cybersecurity experts think the organization allied with China is preparing for possible cyberattacks in the event of armed conflict or escalating geopolitical tensions.

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Purpose of the Caution

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It is thought that the world’s cyber powers have been penetrating their opponents’ vital infrastructure for some time, installing malware that may be activated to interfere with fundamental procedures.

The enforcement alert’s purpose is to caution utilities about the gravity of cyber threats, continue EPA inspections, and pursue civil or criminal fines if significant issues are discovered.

Creating An Action Plan

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According to the report, the National Security Council urged every state to create an action plan outlining its intention to address the major cybersecurity vulnerabilities inherent in its water and wastewater systems.

This is merely a means of alerting all states to the possibility of cyberattacks and to prevent them from happening again.

Challenges Water Systems Encounter

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An expert on water resources emphasized the formidable obstacles that water utilities now face since they are being required to create new departments devoted to the management of cyber hazards.

Large amounts of federal funds are also required to provide the tools that water systems of all sizes need to counter these constantly changing cyber threats successfully.

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