AWWA Report: Cybersecurity Options for the Water Sector
In August 2021, AWWA published a research report that recommends an industry-led regulatory option to enhance cybersecurity readiness and resilience across the water sector. This effort is an alternative to direct federal action, which would likely be highly prescriptive, rather than risk-based.
Read the report: Strengthening the Cyber Resilience of America’s Water Systems: Industry-Led Regulatory Options
Key recommendations from this report:
- Establish an entity (Water Risk & Resilience Organization, or WRRO), led by the water community, to set minimum requirements for cybersecurity.
- WRRO’s audit process would provide third-party accountability for cyber risk management.
- U.S. EPA would provide oversight on minimum requirements.
This report was researched and written for AWWA by Dr. Paul Stockton, who advises critical infrastructure organizations on ways to strengthen preparedness against emerging cyber threats. From May 2009 to January 2013, he served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs. Currently, he chairs the Grid Resilience for National Security subcommittee of DOE’s Electricity Advisory Committee. He also serves on the Strategic Advisory Council of the Idaho National Laboratory, and is a Senior Fellow of the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
Latest policy actions on cybersecurity from AWWA
April 5, Congressional Testimony. Mobilizing Our Cyber Defenses: Securing Critical Infrastructure Against Russian Cyber Threats, presented by Kevin M. Morley PhD, Manager of Federal Relations, American Water Works Association, before the House Committee on Homeland Security. (Video)
Morley said the water community could model a regulatory approach that is similar to the electric sector, with a tiered set of requirements based on risk and performance. EPA would provide federal oversight and approval of requirements would be provided, given its existing statutory role in the water community. (Press release)
More policy guidance on cybersecurity from AWWA:
- Building Cybersecurity Resilience in the Water Sector. Brief summary of five key areas where greater collaboration is needed between owner/operators and federal, state and local partners.
- Journal AWWA: What Does More Look Like? by Kevin Morley (AWWA Manager of Federal Relations) and Paul Stockton. EXCERPT: “There is intense federal attention on what various sectors are doing to manage the risk from cyber threats. This raises questions on what more should be done to ensure that water systems are taking appropriate actions to implement cybersecurity controls. We are therefore at a rare inflection point when it comes to informing a new oversight structure for cybersecurity in the water sector.”
AWWA e-learning, standards, publications, training and webinars on cybersecurity for water systems. Members receive a significant discount.
Upcoming AWWA Events & Webinars:
April 18-19, 2022: Cybersecurity Forum - REGISTER NOW! Top experts will cover key information for water utility executives, so that they can provide decisive leadership to achieve cyber resilience. Includes current and emerging policy, IT/OT vulnerabilities, risk and liability, preparedness and more.
May 24-26, 2022: NEW! AWWA in-person Seminar - Consequence-Driven, Cyber-Informed Engineering (CCE) Training for the Water Sector - Join us in Minneapolis, Minnesota to explore the CCE methodology of improving cyber-defense of our critical infrastructure systems. Learn More
June 15, 2022, 1:30-3pm: Cybersecurity: How Prepared Is Your Utility? Session WED28 at ACE22, San Antonio, Texas (Register for ACE22). Presentations include:
- Cyber-Physical Resilience in Practice
- Implementing Cybersecurity and Network Improvements at Lowell Regional Wastewater Utility (Lowell, Mass.)
- Unveiling the Code: Understanding Ransomware and Negotiation Strategies During a Cyber Attack
Sept. 28, 2022: Utility Cyber Defense: How to Engineer a Better Approach. In this cyber preparedness webinar, learn how to prepare, respond, or recover from a cyberattack. Mitigation techniques extend beyond SCADA and IT hardware to consequence-driven, cyber-informed engineering (CCE). Take swift action to secure your system.
AWWA online Certificate Programs which include cybersecurity:
Utility Risk and Resilience. Earn an industry-recognized certificate relevant to cybersecurity and other key areas of water utility risk. Includes this cybersecurity eLearning course: Cybersecurity in the Water Sector (EL264), which covers:
- Cybersecurity risk management
- Recognizing cybersecurity gaps
- Using AWWA’s Cybersecurity Assessment Tool
Small Systems Resiliency. Free for people who work for a water system serving fewer than 10,000 people. Includes this cybersecurity eLearning course: Cybersecurity for Water Systems (EL276), which covers:
- Best practices for critical infrastructure
- Using AWWA’s cybersecurity risk management guidance and Assessment Tool to identify gaps in current cybersecurity practices
How to access any small systems course for free:
- Log in to your AWWA.org account
- Select your name (top right corner) to view your account information.
- In the menus on the left, select My Courses (under Education).
- Under Small Systems Course Access, enter code: AWWASMSY. Click Redeem, and then click Go.
- All available free courses will be placed in your enrollments. To access any free course, click on the course title, or click Go next to the title.
Risk Management: Key Context for Cybersecurity
AWWA offers a variety of resources on risk and resilience -- including our Utility Risk & Resilience Certificate program.
Cybersecurity is one of many risks that water utilities must manage. Several AWWA Standards, Manuals and other publications offer guidance on risk management. The following AWWA resources provide valuable context for managing cyber risks alongside other risks.
NOTE: Cyber is not the exclusive focus of any of these resources, but rather an element of all of them. Collectively, these standards facilitate compliance with AWIA and provide a foundation for demonstrating due diligence.
- Cybersecurity Risk & Responsibility Guide. The utility has a fiduciary responsibility to manage cyber risks. Covers the scope and significance of cyber threats, system operator responsibility to anticipate threats and address vulnerabilities, additional risks (reputational, regulatory, civil liability), strategy to manage risks and prioritize solutions, insurance, and more.
- Water Sector Cybersecurity Risk Management Guidance. Practical, step-by-step guidance from AWWA for protecting process control systems used by the water sector from cyberattacks. Includes a summary of information to gather before using the Assessment Tool (below). Supports voluntary adoption of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and also addresses the cybersecurity provision of AWIA Section 2013.
- M19: Emergency Planning for Water and Wastewater Utilities, 5th edition. All-hazards approach for principles, practices, and guidelines in water utility emergency planning. Covers plan development, mutual aid partnerships, communication strategies, staff preparedness, risk mitigation and more.
- Operational Guide to AWWA Standard G300, Source Water Protection, 2nd edition. Helps utility managers implement and incorporate G300 into everyday utility operations. Identify source water protection goals, produce and implement action plans, and assess effectiveness. Includes worksheets, an extensive resource section, and case studies of successful source protection programs.
Related AWWA Resources:
- Cybersecurity Assessment Tool and Guidance. AWWA’s interactive tool for assessing your utility’s unique cybersecurity considerations, and guidance for conducting and using this assessment.
- Report: Protecting the Water Sector’s Critical Infrastructure Information: Analysis of State Laws. Many states have taken steps to exempt critical water infrastructure information from public release. As of 2020, 34 states had disclosure exemption laws that specifically address the type of information that utilities much develop and prepare to comply with AWIA. States without such laws have some protections which may, or may not, apply to critical infrastructure information. This report is a review and summary of the protections available for the information developed by a water utility, per AWIA at the state level.
- Journal AWWA: Engineering Cyber–Physical Resilience, by Andrew Ohrt, Daniel A. Groves, et al. SUMMARY: Consequence-driven, cyber-informed engineering (CCE) adds another layer to cybersecurity strategies and helps utilities establish organizational and engineering practices that ensure resilience.
Additional Resources for Water-Sector Cybersecurity Information
Beyond AWWA, many organizations and agencies have created helpful cybersecurity resources relevant to protecting water systems.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Cybersecurity Best Practices for the Water Sector: EPA’s central list of water cybersecurity resources, including:
Resource Guide: America's Water Infrastructure Act: Risk Assessments and Emergency Response Plans. The 2018 AWIA requires that water system emergency response plans address cybersecurity. This EPA list of resources covers important compliance deadlines and other essential information, plus:
Drinking Water and Wastewater Resilience resources, including:
Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center (WaterISAC)
U.S. Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA)
National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)
- NIST Cybersecurity Framework. The based set of standards, methodologies, procedures, and processes designed to align policy, business, and technology solutions to cyber risks. AWWA’s Guidance and Assessment Tool provide a sector-specific approach to using the NIST CSF.
Idaho National Laboratory
- Consequence-Driven Cyber-Informed Engineering. Security methodology for critical infrastructure systems. Assumes that if a critical infrastructure system is targeted by a skilled and determined adversary, the targeted network can and will be penetrated. This "think like the adversary" approach offers infrastructure owners and operators a four-step process for safeguarding operations.
Congressional Research Service