Water is one of the first things everyone mentions when it comes to critical infrastructure. The public sees it in the same way, so its reliability and high quality is not only an economic issue, but also a political one. Unfortunately, these networks are a favourite target, as they can be attacked at very low cost and cause serious damage. SCADA systems used to manage processes of water treatment and distribution systems , however, even with the application of cybersecurity best practices these types of systems have proven to be vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Difficulties raised by digitalisation


Huge and heterogenous infrastructure

Water utilities cover a large physical area, and operators cannot monitor all of it at all times. The specialised and heterogeneous nature of the network can also be a problem, although efforts are being made to modernise them. They can be attacked for a wide variety of purposes. It's not a matter of convenience, it's a matter of necessity to defend these system, with the highest expertese possible.

Cyber-physical reality

Due to the large geographical coverage, a wide variety of devices are used to digitally manage many physical assets in the water network. PLCs are used to identify contaminants in the water, to compose it, to treat wastewater, to control the water itself. Such hybrid systems require different expertise than traditional office IT.

Green OT and global inequality

For the time being, water is seen as a renewable resource, but it is under constant threat of becoming scarce. Even today, not everyone has access to clean drinking water, and this issue is a cornerstone of global inequalities. Addressing these problems will require an increasingly extensive and complex OT infrastructure, whose elements will inevitably come into contact with the outside world in some way (including wifi and physical proximity) to be effective, and will be vulnerable as a result. The responsibility for secure operation falls on all actors in the network.

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