Press coverage and federal investigations of two alleged cyber-attacks on water systems in Illinois and Texas underscore the need to reduce potential risks of hackers seizing control of specialized computer equipment that controls and monitors water, wastewater and power infrastructure, as well as industrial facilities such as oil refineries and chemical plants. Water and wastewater utilities in Hampton Roads have already implemented measures to reduce risks to water sector infrastructure and, in June 2011, kicked off an effort to further enhance overall system resiliency and security. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission is managing this regional planning effort which is funded by the Department of Homeland Security, Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program, through grants from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
Awareness of the potential for cyber-attacks on Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems and Industrial Control Systems (ICS), has increased since the widely publicized 2009 Stuxnet malware attack on an Iranian uranium enrichment plant. The “Water Supply Assessment and Emergency Response Training” project will provide a regional assessment of potential water and wastewater system vulnerabilities. Potential risk scenarios that could disrupt water systems in Hampton Roads, including SCADA system failure, were identified during phase I of the project. To help understand the critical infrastructure interdependencies in Hampton Roads and the potential partnerships and jurisdictional overlaps in the region, water and wastewater utilities will conduct a table-top training exercise in spring 2012. The project will result in a regional plan, to be completed in fall 2012, to serve as a roadmap for future improvement.