Cyber ​​threat on the water tap, episode 4

Suburbs of Tampa, Florida just suffered a cyberattack on its water infrastructure [lire l’épisode 1], but also many other countries, including Israel [lire l’épisode 2]. These infrastructures are poorly protected [lire l’épisode 3]. Water network managers have long believed that they are not affected by cyber risk. Suffering from a lack of investment, they focused on protecting the health of the population, forgetting that of their systems computer science.

Bad practices and budgets at half mast

Since we focus first on process safety to avoid physical and human damage, there is no major focus on cybersecurity itself. Therefore, the practices are poor. There is little exchange of information. As explained by the American expert Brian Krebs, who spoke with several operators [1], most of the time, we just haven’t heard of this type of flaw! And it is possible that for Oldsmar, in Florida, the attack was made public precisely because of the proximity and media pressure of the Tampa Super Bowl [lire l’épisode 1]… The software used does not correspond to good practice for this type of industrial system either – whether it is TeamViewer, which gives too much access to the systems. [2], or Windows 7, still used despite the fact that Microsoft no longer provides maintenance [3]. It should also be noted that at Oldsmar, TeamViewer had not been used for six months … but had still not been uninstalled [4] ! Finally, the fact that all users used the same password to access TeamViewer probably did not help the systems cybersecurity. [5].

Besides, why strengthen cybersecurity when the sector is not of great interest to cybercriminal groups? And for a simple reason: water service infrastructures have little money and often low margins – whether in the United States, where they are often managed by small municipal structures, or in Europe. . Thus, in France, the aging of pipelines, faced with increased uses and increased wear due to the ever greater risk of global warming, weighs on a sector that is the victim of underinvestment. The Professional Federation of Water Companies (FP2E) estimates that at least 9 billion euros per year should be invested in water and sanitation instead of the 6 billion granted [6]. According to the National Union of Water and Environment Industries and Companies (UIE), an “abysmal” annual investment deficit has widened [7]. What place, then, for cybersecurity?

But by dint of abandoning too much a sector that is nevertheless vital for human activity, we risk constituting a superb target for cybercriminals who would see it as a new way of economically exploiting this “soft underbelly”; or for nation states seeking new ways to weaken through cyber coercion. The Israeli reaction to the Iranian attack in March 2020 [lire l’épisode 2] is perhaps a way of marking a red line and of not accepting, precisely, the creation of this type of “soft stomach”. Even if the cyberattack in Oldsmar comes from a disgruntled employee, it must be a wake-up call for the industry and its partners. There is a lot of talk about resilience since the Covid-19 crisis. But what agricultural, industrial or simply residential housing activity could continue to operate normally if all of a sudden, for safety reasons, the water was cut off? For example, during the increasingly scorching summers that global warming promises us?

Some foreign powers, such as Ukraine and Finland, experienced the malicious disruption of central heating and electricity in the middle of winter. Why not, tomorrow, stop the distribution of water in the middle of summer?


Source: UsineNouvelle – Actualités A la une by

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