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EPA’s Action Against Cybersecurity Threats | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


Water Faucet (TFP File Photo)

The security and resilience of our nation’s water infrastructure have never been more critical. In recent years, the frequency and severity of cyberattacks targeting community drinking water systems have escalated to alarming levels, posing grave threats to public health and safety.

Recognizing the urgency of this issue, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken decisive action to fortify the cybersecurity defenses of water systems across the country.

On Monday. the EPA issued a comprehensive enforcement alert outlining the urgent cybersecurity vulnerabilities plaguing the nation’s drinking water systems.

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This alert was part of a broader government-wide effort, led by the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), to address the growing infrastructure and cybersecurity risks.

The EPA’s recent inspections revealed that the majority of water systems – over 70% – were not fully compliant with the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Even more concerning, many of these systems had critical cybersecurity weaknesses, such as default passwords that had never been updated and single login credentials that could easily be compromised.

As the EPA and its state and federal security partners continue to identify these vulnerabilities, informed by successful cyberattacks on water systems across the United States, the agency has recognized the urgent need for action. The threat to the nation’s drinking water has reached a critical point, requiring immediate intervention to safeguard public health and safety.

To address this growing crisis, the EPA has pledged to leverage its full enforcement authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure that water systems are taking the necessary steps to protect against cyberattacks.

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“Protecting our nation’s drinking water is a cornerstone of EPA’s mission, and we are committed to using every tool, including our enforcement authorities, to ensure that our nation’s drinking water is protected from cyberattacks,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe. “EPA’s new enforcement alert is the latest step that the Biden-Harris Administration is taking to ensure communities understand the urgency and severity of cyberattacks and water systems are ready to address these serious threats to our nation’s public health.”

The agency has committed to significantly increasing the number of planned inspections of water systems, and where appropriate, it will take civil and criminal enforcement actions. This includes responding to situations that may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health.

The inspections will focus on verifying that water systems are meeting their obligations to regularly assess their resilience vulnerabilities, including cybersecurity, and to develop comprehensive emergency response plans. Failure to comply with these requirements will result in swift and decisive enforcement measures.

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The EPA’s efforts to safeguard the nation’s drinking water are part of a broader, coordinated strategy involving multiple government agencies and state-level partners.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan recently sent a letter to the nation’s governors, emphasizing the urgency of the cybersecurity threats and the importance of collaboration across federal and state agencies to develop comprehensive strategies to address these vulnerabilities.

Following this meeting, the National Security Council encouraged each state to prepare an action plan outlining its strategy to mitigate the most significant cybersecurity risks in the state’s water and wastewater systems. These plans are expected to be submitted by late June 2024.

The EPA is also working closely with the Water Sector Coordinating Council and the Water Government Coordinating Council to establish a dedicated task force. This task force will be responsible for identifying additional near-term actions and strategies to reduce the risk of cyberattacks on water and wastewater systems nationwide.

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