US plans to counter ‘disabling cyberattacks’ against water systems

The Biden administration wants states to help plan new protections for water infrastructure across the U.S., which it says is at a growing risk from cyberattacks.

White House officials and the EPA asked governors to make health and security officials available for a meeting Thursday. There they will discuss cyber threats against water systems and what U.S. and state governments are doing to plug those vulnerabilities.

These “disabling cyberattacks” are targeting water and wastewater systems nationwide, officials say.

In one case, hackers backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps struck drinking water systems that were using default passwords on some of their hardware.

In another, hackers sponsored by the Chinese government compromised a wide range of infrastructure across the U.S., including water systems. Federal officials say the attack is likely to pave the way to disrupt infrastructure “in the event of geopolitical tensions and/or military conflicts.”

“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 Regan.

The U.S. plans to build what it calls a Water Sector Cybersecurity Task Force, which will gather input from state stakeholders to find and fix “the most significant vulnerabilities.”