Rep. Greg Stanton questioned industry experts about mounting cybersecurity challenges facing America’s small, rural and tribal water systems during a House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing. Cybersecurity experts have long warned of cyberattacks on small municipal systems that may not have the budget or resources for more advanced security.
In his questioning, Stanton referenced a February 2021 cyberattack on the small Florida town of Oldsmar in which a hacker gained access to a water system and, in a matter of minutes, increased the level of sodium hydroxide in the water supply from 100 parts per million to an extremely dangerous 11,100 parts per million.
“Approximately 90 percent of our country’s public water supplies and 80 percent of wastewater utilities are small and serve fewer than 10,000 people,” said Stanton. “The hack at Oldsmar demonstrates the vulnerability of small systems and the challenges they face in preparing for and responding to these threats compared to larger water systems.”
John Sullivan, chief engineer of the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, said that a lack of resources is a major hurdle for smaller water and wastewater systems in combatting cyberattacks.
Stanton pressed Sullivan, who leads the Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center, to boost outreach to tribal water and wastewater systems in particular.
“It’s so critically important that we provide clean water to our tribal members, and often they don’t have the same resources as others, but they have the same needs for their communities,” Stanton said.
The American Water Works Association lists cyber-risk as the top threat facing the nation’s water sector. In October, the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released an advisory warning that hackers are probing digital vulnerabilities for water and sewer systems, threatening the ability of local governments to provide clean, potable water to, and effectively manage the wastewater of, their communities.
Video of Stanton’s questioning is available HERE.