| Cybersecurity press briefing
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Cybersecurity press briefing

The U.S. White House Press Secretaries Jen Psaki and Anne Neuberger today held a press briefing that included several recommendations for all sectors to bolster their cybersecurity efforts.

“The U.S. Government will continue our efforts to provide resources and tools to the private sector, including via CISA’s Shields-Up campaign and we will do everything in our power to defend the Nation and respond to cyberattacks,” the White House stated in briefing materials. “But the reality is that much of the Nation’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and the private sector must act to protect the critical services on which all Americans rely.

“The White House urges companies to execute the following steps with urgency:

  • Mandate the use of multi-factor authentication on your systems to make it harder for attackers to get onto your system;
  • Deploy modern security tools on your computers and devices to continuously look for and mitigate threats;
  • Check with your cybersecurity professionals to make sure that your systems are patched and protected against all known vulnerabilities, and change passwords across your networks so that previously stolen credentials are useless to malicious actors;
  • Back up your data and ensure you have offline backups beyond the reach of malicious actors;
  • Run exercises and drill your emergency plans so that you are prepared to respond quickly to minimize the impact of any attack;
  • Encrypt your data so it cannot be used if it is stolen;
  • Educate your employees to common tactics that attackers will use over email or through websites, and encourage them to report if their computers or phones have shown unusual behavior, such as unusual crashes or operating very slowly; and
  • Engage proactively with your local FBI field office or CISA Regional Office to establish relationships in advance of any cyber incidents. Please encourage your IT and Security leadership to visit the websites of CISA and the FBI where they will find technical information and other useful resources.

“We also must focus on bolstering America’s cybersecurity over the long term. We encourage technology and software companies to:

  • Build security into your products from the ground up — “bake it in, don’t bolt it on” — to protect both your intellectual property and your customers’ privacy.
  • Develop software only on a system that is highly secure and accessible only to those actually working on a particular project. This will make it much harder for an intruder to jump from system to system and compromise a product or steal your intellectual property.
  • Use modern tools to check for known and potential vulnerabilities. Developers can fix most software vulnerabilities — if they know about them.  There are automated tools that can review code and find most coding errors before software ships, and before a malicious actor takes advantage of them.
  • Software developers are responsible for all code used in their products, including open source code. Most software is built using many different components and libraries, much of which is open source.  Make sure developers know the provenance (i.e., origin) of components they are using and have a “software bill of materials” in case one of those components is later found to have a vulnerability so you can rapidly correct it.
  • Implement the security practices mandated in the President’s Executive Order, Improving our Nation’s Cybersecurity. Pursuant to that EO, all software the U.S. government purchases is now required to meet security standards in how it is built and deployed. We encourage you to follow those practices more broadly.”

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) invites all critical infrastructure partners and stakeholders to participate in an Unclassified Broad Stakeholder Call to address impacts of the Russia-Ukraine situation on the Homeland. The call will be tomorrow, March 22, from 2-3 p.m. EDT.

The call-in information is below:
Dial-in Information:  800-857-6546 | Passcode: 2824553
International Number- 800-857-6546 | Passcode: 2824553

AWWA has developed Cybersecurty Guidance and an Assessment Tool to support utility assessment of potential cyber vulnerabilities. These resources aid a utility in examining cybersecurity controls that are tailored to the users’ operational conditions and implementation status to inform cybersecurity risk management actions.

Questions from AWWA members can be directed to Kevin Morley, AWWA’s federal relations manager.