Nunn introduces water system cybersecurity legislation | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

Reps. Zach Nunn and Don Davis, a Democrat from North Carolina, have introduced legislation that would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand the Circuit Rider Program. 

The Circuit Rider Program started in 1980 to assist rural water systems with training and technical knowledge, but the program currently has minimal cybersecurity support. 

Providing cybersecurity support would add a layer of protection to rural communities’ water supply, according to a news release from Nunn’s office.

A 2021 Oldsmar, Florida water treatment plant cyberattack prompted discussion around the topic. A cyberattacker remotely accessed the water treatment facility’s computer program and attempted to adjust the sodium hydroxide quantities to dangerous levels, according to law enforcement officials. 

The Florida attack and similar attacks in California have increased efforts taken at the federal level to assist rural areas to increase cybersecurity at water treatment plants. 

The circuit riders provide rural utilities lacking financial resources and in-house expertise, but according to Nunn, the Circuit Rider Program does not have the support to fulfill its duties. 

The program currently has 150 circuit riders servicing 49 state rural water associations, including Puerto Rico. Four circuit riders service Iowa.

The legislation would increase the number of circuit riders to 200, with intentions to assess the cybersecurity of small water utilities. 

“The reality is that Iowa’s water supply could be devastated by a single cyber attack right now, so improving the cybersecurity of our water systems must be a top priority,” Nunn said in a news release. “Unfortunately, the changes that are needed to keep our water supply safe are often cost prohibitive for smaller rural communities.  This bipartisan bill will provide critical resources and funding to prevent cyber attacks so that all Iowans can rest easy at night knowing our water supply is safe.”

The additional employees would be hired to assess cybersecurity, develop protocols to enhance cyber defenses and provide assistance to supplement inadequate cyber protection plans, according to the news release. 


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