In Hot Water: Lackluster Cybersecurity at Municipal Water Departments

By March 10, 2021 Blog
Water Department

What is the cost of a glass of water? Well, it depends on a lot of factors…what kind of water? Where was it sourced? Where are you located?

What’s the cost (both monetary and in terms of human impact) or a cyberattack that potentially poisons 14,000 people?

On February 5th, 2021, a cybercriminal gained access to a computer system at a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida. They sent a command to alter the levels of sodium hydroxide (also known as lye) from 100 to 11,000 parts per million – levels that would make the city’s water dangerous to drink.

Thankfully, the attack was subverted, and an FBI investigation began immediately thereafter. But just imagine if it had succeeded.

When lye levels were accidentally raised in 2007, dozens of Massachusetts residents experienced irritated skin, burns, and rashes. Think about the impact of a mass poisoning event in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Map of Florida Water Department Hacking Attempt

This incident is not just another hacking story. It highlights massive deficiencies in local governments’ cybersecurity infrastructure. It also foreshadows massive pain and suffering if breach detection and prevention measures aren’t taken.

Last year, TCG implemented CyBlok, our Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) platform for a water department in Central Massachusetts. The early results have been astounding – enabling us to identify and address dozens of critical vulnerabilities.

How has CyBlok helped? By aggregating the data from every log-bearing device at the Water District and analyzing it with advanced machine learning. The resulting data stream is parsed by the “Eyes on Glass” experts at our 24×7 Security Operations Center (SOC).

What would it mean to your customers’ peace of mind if you added those capabilities plus virus, phishing, and zero-day threat detection?

But as good as CyBlok SIEM is, it can’t address every potential problem. What if a staffer is duped into opening a phishing email? What if a disgruntled employee willingly aides an attack? If an organization is hyper-focused on one threat vector, they’ll miss the forest for the trees.

The answer is not one tool or even a package of tools. The solution is a partnership with a trustworthy Managed Services Provider. Companies like TCG learn your technology stack, foster ongoing conversations, and plan for cybersecurity success.

If you are even the slightest bit concerned about your security posture, we should talk. To schedule a chat, contact us now.

Leave a Reply