In Light of News From Florida, CAW Reminds Customers That It Continuously Monitors Security Threats
LITTLE ROCK, AR – On Monday, Feb. 8, a story out of Oldsmar, Florida began circulating throughout the national media concerning an attempted hack of a municipal water system through the utility’s treatment computer system.
The hacker used the computer system to attempt to increase the amount of sodium hydroxide, which is used for pH adjustment in the treatment process. The goal was to increase the dose of sodium hydroxide several thousand times beyond what is normally used. This attempt to poison the water could have led to major illness or even fatalities in that community.
Like other utilities nationwide, Central Arkansas Water was especially troubled to hear of this story. However, CAW does have extensive security measures in place to ensure a hack like the one attempted is never successful.
CAW utilizes a multi-barrier approach to security as it relates to the water treatment process. One of the first and most obvious is the physical security of our facilities. These are the basic security features such as fences and gates, 24-hour monitoring, and keycard entry systems.
However, in this case, the hacker was not looking to enter the facility physically. The hacker wanted to enter the system from a remote location and use the chemicals already at the plant as a weapon. This required the ability to remotely-access the computer system.
CAW’s system uses high-security processes which are also utilized by military, financial and life-critical systems. While CAW cannot publicly disclose the specific structure of our systems due to the obvious risks involved, we can assure you that our technology is cutting-edge, and was designed to ensure the safety of our community. One of the major flaws reported in the Florida system, which is the ability to remotely access the system, was identified and eliminated years ago by CAW.
Also, we staff our treatment plants 24/7/365 with no less than two trained operators, one to monitor the treatment system and one to monitor the distribution system, and they are cross trained to monitor and operate either system. They ensure water quality and chemical feed equipment are continuously monitored from the beginning of treatment until the water is released into the distribution system. In Florida, the attempted hack was thwarted by the same type of dedicated operators, who noticed the attempt and immediately went to work to eliminate the threat and regulate the chemical to protect public safety. Because of their quick thinking and actions, no one in that community was harmed by this attempt.
CAW highest priority is the public health and safety of our neighbors in our community. We continually evaluate risks that could potentially create issues in our system, and then create processes to mitigate those risks. CAW regularly utilizes outside specialists to test our safety measures and complete risk assessments. The last risk and resiliency assessment was completed March 31, 2020 and we updated our emergency action plans on September 30, 2020. We will never stop working to ensure the absolute safety of our system so we can continue to provide you with some of the safest, most dependable, highest-quality water in the country.
Central Arkansas Water is the largest utility in Arkansas, serving almost 500,000 customers across seven counties.
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