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IT Audit and Protection of Water Supply Critical Infrastructure

In today’s digital age, technology plays a crucial role in the management and maintenance of water infrastructure. From monitoring water levels to controlling water flow, IT systems are essential for ensuring the safe and efficient operation of water infrastructure. However, with the increasing reliance on technology, it is important to regularly assess and audit these systems to ensure they are secure and functioning properly. In this article, we will discuss what an IT audit of water infrastructure is and why it is important.

Understanding IT Audits

An IT audit is a comprehensive evaluation of an organization’s IT systems, processes, and controls. It is conducted to assess the effectiveness of these systems and identify any potential risks or vulnerabilities. IT audits are typically performed by a team of IT professionals who have expertise in security, infrastructure, and compliance.

The Importance of IT Audits for Water Infrastructure

Water infrastructure is a critical component of our daily lives, and any disruption or failure can have severe consequences. With the increasing use of technology in managing water infrastructure, it is crucial to ensure that these systems are secure and functioning properly. An IT audit of water infrastructure helps to identify any weaknesses or vulnerabilities in the IT systems that could potentially lead to a breach or system failure. It also ensures that the systems are compliant with industry regulations and standards.

Assessing IT Security

One of the main focuses of an IT audit of water infrastructure is to assess the security of the IT systems. This includes evaluating the security measures in place to protect against cyber threats, such as malware, hacking, and data breaches. The audit team will review the organization’s security policies, procedures, and controls to identify any gaps or weaknesses. They will also conduct vulnerability scans and penetration testing to identify any potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.

Evaluating IT Infrastructure

The IT infrastructure of water infrastructure is also a crucial aspect of the audit. This includes the hardware, software, and network systems that are used to manage and monitor the water infrastructure. The audit team will assess the reliability, performance, and scalability of these systems to ensure they can support the current and future needs of the organization. They will also review the backup and disaster recovery plans to ensure that critical data and systems can be restored in the event of a disaster.

Compliance with Regulations

Water infrastructure is subject to various regulations and standards, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. An IT audit of water infrastructure ensures that the IT systems are compliant with these regulations and standards. This includes evaluating the organization’s data privacy and security practices, as well as ensuring that the systems are properly maintained and updated.

EPA Recommendations for IT Audit

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides recommendations for cybersecurity in the water supply sector to enhance the protection of critical infrastructure. These recommendations aim to safeguard against cyber threats and ensure the secure operation of water systems. The EPA advises water utilities to implement robust cybersecurity measures, such as conducting regular risk assessments, enhancing network security, monitoring for unusual activities, and establishing incident response plans. By following these recommendations, water utilities can strengthen their defenses against cyber attacks and better protect the integrity and reliability of water supply systems.

Through our IT Compliance programs, Fisch provides audits of critical infrastructure IT such as those recommended by the EPA for water supply and wastewater facilities.

What is Operational Technology (OT) Internet-of-Things (IoT) and their Threats to Cybersecurity

Operational Technology (OT) refers to the hardware and software used to monitor and control physical devices, processes, and events in industrial settings. It includes systems like Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), which are crucial for managing and controlling industrial processes. SCADA systems gather real-time data from sensors and equipment in industrial environments, allowing operators to monitor and control processes remotely. However, because these systems are often connected to the internet for remote access, they can be vulnerable to cyber threats if not properly secured.

To protect Operational Technology, including SCADA systems, in cybersecurity, several measures can be implemented. Firstly, it’s essential to segment OT networks from IT networks to prevent unauthorized access from spreading across the entire infrastructure. Implementing strong access controls, such as multi-factor authentication and role-based access, can help limit access to critical OT systems. Regularly updating and patching OT systems to address known vulnerabilities is crucial. Additionally, conducting regular security assessments, penetration testing, and monitoring for unusual activities can help detect and mitigate potential cyber threats to OT systems effectively. By following these cybersecurity best practices, organizations can enhance the security of their Operational Technology infrastructure and reduce the risk of cyber incidents.

Operational Technology (OT) incidents are becoming an actual threat. Recently there was a cybersecurity incident that occurred in Florida involving a hacker gaining unauthorized access to a water treatment plant’s computer system through a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system. The hacker was able to manipulate the system and increase the amount of lye (sodium hydroxide) in the water supply to dangerous levels. This incident highlighted the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure systems like water treatment plants to cyber attacks and emphasized the importance of robust cybersecurity measures to prevent such incidents in the future.

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