Water Plant Cyber Incident Cause for Alarm

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 @ 04:09 PM gHale


Just over a year ago, a power failure shut down water-treating equipment at the Mabton water treatment plant in the state of Washington.

The problem was a computer designed to detect a loss of power failed and as a result, it did not automatically switch the plant to a back up generator and alert the plant operator.

For two days this problem went undetected and 370,000 gallons of raw sewage flowed right into the Yakima River.

That was probably the largest municipal waste water accident in Eastern Washington in the past 20 years, said Joye Redfield-Wilder, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Ecology.

That cyber incident is just one case in the Repository for Industrial Security Incidents (RISI) at the Security Incidents Organization that shows how one simple incident could cost a company lost revenue or damage the surrounding area or the environment.

While the financial impact or the environmental impact of that spill were not revealed, other cases in the report on “Cyber Security Incidents and Trends Affecting Water/Wastewater Industrial Control Systems” do show 50 percent of incidents that did report financial implications found the costs were over $10,000 and 14 incidents had costs over $100,000.

Most of these were intentional incidents caused by disgruntled employees. Numerous incidents resulted in sewage spills into surrounding bodies of water. While the cleanup costs for most of these are minor, the impact to the environment can be significant.

There are more details on the Mabton case and other incidents in the report. For discounted price on the “Cyber Security Incidents and Trends Affecting Water/Wastewater Industrial Control Systems” report, or to get a discounted price on joining the Security Incidents Organization, please click here.



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