Water & Wastewater Industry

Protecting industrial companies against cyber threats is crucial, particularly in the water and wastewater industry. With the rise of operational technology (OT), the risks of cyber attacks and their consequences have grown significantly. OT refers to the use of technology to monitor and control industrial processes, such as those used in the water and wastewater industry.

The use of OT has made it possible to optimize these processes, but it has also created new risks that need to be addressed. Water and wastewater companies are vulnerable to cyber-attacks that can disrupt operations, compromise public safety, and cause significant financial loss.

The water and wastewater sector is experiencing an increase in cyber incidents, making it crucial for companies to prioritize OT cybersecurity.

Water And Wastewater Graph

The Threat Landscape in the Water and Wastewater Industry

The water and wastewater industry has been the target of cybercriminals, and recent incidents highlight the importance of cybersecurity in this sector.

Claroty, a cybersecurity platform provider, conducted a survey in the second half of 2021 on the water and wastewater sector. The results were surprising.


Companies experiencing a ransomware attack affecting only IT


Respondents had a partial impact on one site


Affected only OT


Had a substantial impact on multiple sites for one week

The costs of downtime were significant.


Respondents incurring between $100,000 to $500,000 per hour experiencing a ransomware attack affecting only IT


Experienced costs of $1M to $5M per hour


Respondents paid the ransom

The San Francisco Bay Area experienced a cyber attack in January 2021. A group of hackers used a former employee's username and password, which had not been removed from the system, to gain access to a water treatment facility.

Using outdated software and widely shared login credentials, hackers also accessed controls for a water treatment facility in Oldsmar, Florida, in February 2021. The hackers attempted to increase the levels of sodium hydroxide to toxic levels and contaminate the water supply of the town's 15,000 residents. Luckily, an alert user noticed the mouse movement and informed the authorities. This incident brings attention to the vulnerabilities posed by remote access systems, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in critical infrastructure IT systems and represent significant cybersecurity risks.

A 2021 report by a water industry organization found that the top concerns for utilities are the need for cybersecurity training and education specific to the sector, technical assistance, assessments, tools, threat information sharing, and financial support in the form of federal loans and grants.

Former director of CISA Chris Krebs noted that budget and other constraints often mean that "even the basics in cybersecurity often are out of reach" for many critical infrastructure entities. Krebs urged the private sector to improve its efforts on cybersecurity, emphasizing that companies have a responsibility to customers, stakeholders, and the country.

Potential Consequences of Cyber Attacks on the Water and Wastewater Industry

Successful cyber-attacks on the water and wastewater industry can have far-reaching consequences. These attacks can disrupt treatment and conveyance processes by manipulating equipment, disabling pumps, or overriding alarms. Attackers can also deface the utility's website or compromise the email system, putting customer data and billing information at risk of theft. In some cases, malicious programs such as ransomware can be installed, causing severe damage to business operations.

The effects of such attacks can be disastrous, compromising the ability of water and wastewater utilities to provide clean and safe water to their customers. This, in turn, can erode customer confidence, leading to financial and legal liabilities. The potential harm caused by successful cyber-attacks underscores the importance of implementing robust cybersecurity measures to protect against such threats.

Security Challenges in the Water and Wastewater Industry

The water industry faces unique security challenges in the realm of cybersecurity. Although all utility sectors encounter these challenges, the water industry is particularly vulnerable. Unlike the electric, oil, and gas industries, there's no standardized set of rules or regulations for securing water utilities. As a result, there are numerous potential security gaps due to the disparate nature of system implementation.

Additionally, cybersecurity practices are outdated in many parts of the country, and weaker identity monitoring and access management tools increase vulnerability.

In a 2019 report, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) recognized the paramount risk of cyber risk to critical infrastructure, citing insufficient human, technological, and financial resources as primary barriers to comprehensive security measures and robust defenses. Hackers are keenly aware of the potential impact on the population, giving them the upper hand when breaching frontline security.

Ransomware is a common tactic used by attackers, who exploit these vulnerabilities in exchange for sizable payments. Reports indicate that ransomware attacks on the water utility industry are increasing, putting individuals all over the country at risk.

Water and Waterwaste Industry Brief

The water and wastewater industry provides essential services to the public and relies on technology like SCADA systems, making them vulnerable to cyber threats. Cybersecurity breaches in these systems can lead to disruptions in service, financial losses, and reputational damage.

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BlastShield ZTNA OT Security White Paper

Read the BlastShield Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) Technical White Paper

The zero trust solution market is becoming increasingly saturated, but many “zero trust” products do not satisfy the ZTA standards of the United States federal government. The paper explores how a ZTNA approach enhances security, manageability and performance to simplify the security stack and prove you can’t hack what you can’t see.

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BlastShield: Leveraging OT Cybersecurity for Industrial Companies

Leveraging OT cybersecurity involves implementing measures to protect these critical systems from cyber threats. One solution that can help protect OT systems is BlastShield.

BlastShield is an advanced cybersecurity solution that protects industrial control systems from cyber threats. Its unique approach to cybersecurity involves real-time monitoring of industrial control systems, using advanced technologies to detect and respond to cyber threats before they can cause any damage. This solution analyzes data from industrial control systems to identify potential threats, blocks malicious traffic, and prevents unauthorized access to critical systems.

With BlastShield, businesses can rest assured that their industrial control systems are secure and protected from cyber threats. 

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