Officials Scramble as Cyber Threats Against US Water Systems Increase

( – A small western Pennsylvania water authority was unexpectedly hit in a wave of cyberattacks, raising concerns among US security officials about vulnerabilities in American water systems to outside threats.

The Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, was not prepared for a cyberattack targeting a specific piece of their equipment. The water provider has never needed outside assistance to protect its systems from cyberattacks before, not in its original plant dating back to before World War II, and not for the new facility currently under construction for $18.5 million.

The facility was one among several hit by a cyberattack federal authorities said may have been backed by Iran in order to target a specific piece of equipment, possibly because it’s manufactured in Israel.

Although a smaller water authority, the Aliquippa facility just outside of Pittsburgh handles waste and drinking water for around 22,000 people in the wooded exurb that was once a thriving steel town. The chairman of the facility, Matthew Mottes, said that if someone told him “to list 10 things that would go wrong” with the water authority, a cyberattack “would be on the list.”

US security officials say the danger of cyberattacks to water facilities is hackers who may find backdoors to access and control automated equipment, shutting down pumps that supply resident drinking water, or even contaminate the water by reprogramming scheduled chemical treatments.

The attack in Pennsylvania took place on Nov. 25, which federal officials told Mottes was carried out by the same group that hacked into four other utility facilities and an aquarium.

Cybersecurity experts said no evidence has yet emerged of Iranian involvement in the attack on Israel that took place on October 7. Many commentators have suggested a connection, including leaders of the group Hamas that conducted the attack. Despite the lack of evidence, the experts predicted an increase in such attacks and suspect a connected motivation behind the recent one in Pennsylvania.

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