Are We Prepared? Checking in with CT Water Companies After FL Cybersecurity Breach


As the FBI and Secret Service investigate who tried to poison a Florida city’s water supply, water suppliers in Connecticut say they’re confident in the checks and balances they have in place to keep our drinking water safe.

Friday, officials say someone hacked into the Oldsmar, Florida water treatment plant and tried to fill the water with a harmful chemical. 

“While we may be hearing about this in the news for the first time, this is certainly not a new threat. This is something that we have been prepared for, for years,” said Regional Water Authority spokesperson Kate Rayner.

NBC Connecticut asked RWA in the New Haven area, MDC based in Greater Hartford, Connecticut Water providing services around the state or Aquarion Water Company mainly in western Connecticut too: they told NBC Connecticut they have many levels of security in place to stop what happened Friday from happening at their facilities.

“We have predetermined chemical levels set with our SCADA system, so you can’t just increase the level beyond a historic level. This adds extra protection,” said Aquarion Water Company director of corporate communications Peter Fazekas.

In interviews, Aquarion Water Company and RWA both specified that their network controlling their water system is separate from their corporate network.

Plus, they have a human checks and balance component in place too.

“There is somebody monitoring water treatment levels 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We always have eyes on the quality of the water,” said Rayner.

In a statement, MDC says in part, "...the MDC continues to make critical investments in cybersecurity as part of our operational and capital infrastructure planning and stresses the importance of ongoing assessment of internal controls, collaboration with government agencies, preparedness training exercises and sharing of information, policies and procedures."

Connecticut Water, in a statement said, they have "...followed industry practices, implemented cybersecurity measures, and invested in systems and controls designed to protect our computer and operating systems." And, ..."Critical water quality parameters are monitored by our licensed and state certified water treatment plant and distribution systems operators."

But no matter the measures in place, Art House says we should still be concerned.

He’s a cybersecurity and intelligence expert who worked for the Obama administration and has served as our state’s cyber security risk officer.

“Yeah, this is really serious. As a country we are genially far too complacent about cyber threats. We don’t want to scare people, but it’s a clear and present danger,” he said.

House says this Florida example is a small example of something he’s most worried about, a big attack from a nation state that would shut down our critical infrastructure.

“I mean look if power goes out, you can put on another blanket. You can find a can of soup, but if you don’t have safe water to drink you die. You have to get water, you have to find it, so it is the breaking point for a lot of communities.”

He says Connecticut communities need to practice our response and recovery if our water was compromised.

“Every town is susceptible to being hacked. Every city. Every household. Every company. We need to have an action plan. What would you do if it happened to you?”

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