10 Basic Cybersecurity Measures That Use Common Sense

Our colleagues at the WaterISAC, along with several other ISACs and DHS ICS-CERT have developed a “top ten” list of basic cybersecurity recommendations that all water and wastewater utilities can use to minimize their vulnerability to cyber breaches and defend against cyber attacks.  These low or no cost common sense recommendations should work for any system size or type.

Each recommendation is accompanied by links to corresponding technical resources.

  1. Update systems and software
  2. Use only strong passwords and change default passwords
  3. Apply firewalls to implement network segmentation
  4. Minimize network exposure for all control system devices
  5. Establish role-based access controls
  6. Use secure remote access methods
  7. Do not open suspicious email or respond to suspicious phone calls
  8. Limit use of removable storage devices
  9. Develop and enforce policies on mobile devices
  10. Develop a cybersecurity incident response plan

Hiring Our Heroes

If you know of water utilities looking for operators, managers, security coordinators, or other staff positions, here’s another possible resource.

The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation has created the “Hiring Our Heroes.” project.  According to their website, “Hiring Our Heroes…launched in March 2011 as a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. Working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vast network of state and local chambers and strategic partners from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, our goal is to create a movement across America in hundreds of communities where veterans and military families return every day.”

The Hiring Our Heroes webpage http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/events/hiringfairs contains information not only about in person job fairs but also offers opportunities for virtual fairs.  Water systems individually, or through their member organizations such as NRWA or AWWA or WEF, can reserve a booth (usually at no or minimal charge) and conduct interviews on the spot.  Right now, there are more than 25 job fair locations posted on the hiring fairs site.  In an interesting new twist, the Foundation also hosts fairs that include job opportunities for military spouses – an often overlooked resource!

Take a look at the web pages devoted to Hiring Our Heroes.  Please share this information with others in the water community who may be in need of well trained professionals.

EPA’s Inspector General Releases “Quick Reaction Report” on Ebola Information

On January 21, EPA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a “Quick Reaction Report” on the information provided by EPA related to combating the Ebola virus.  More specifically, the Report addresses the completeness and consistency of information provided on the EPA website regarding disinfectants for use against the Ebola virus.

In short, the OIG offered two recommendations that have been accepted and acted upon by EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.  The recommendations are to:

  1. Modify the EPA’s List L Web page information to indicate the status of the EPA’s ATP testing on all products listed, and
  2. Ensure that all List L products are included on the ATP list, and product testing status is clearly reported.

To read the complete report, please click this link: Quick Reaction Report: Complete and Clear Information on the Effectiveness of Ebola Disinfectants Will Better Inform the Public

Two New Climate Tools

Earlier today, Security Notes reported on a new interactive storm surge map from EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities initiative.  There are two additional climate- related tools that you may also be interested in exploring:

Scenario-Based Projected Changes Map:  This online map provides easy access to localized scenarios of projected changes in annual total precipitation, precipitation intensity, annual average temperature, 100-year storm events, and sea-level rise from EPA’s Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool.  To explore local climate change projection data across the United States, simply zoom in on your location of interest or type a location into the search field of the map.  Climate change projection data within this map is provided by grid cell, illustrated as a square grid with 1/2-degree resolution, approximately 32 X 32 miles, for the United States.  Explore the map on EPA’s website.

EPA Water Utility Climate Resilience Support Project:  EPA is initiating a nationwide effort to promote an understanding of climate risk and adaptation options within the water sector.  By working with a diverse set of individual utilities in a collaborative process, EPA will assist 20 water and wastewater utilities in conducting comprehensive climate related risk assessments using our Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool (CREAT). The assessments will identify utility-level adaptation strategies for implementation to bolster climate readiness and resilience.  A list of confirmed participating utilities can be found on EPA’s website.


EPA Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative Releases Storm Surge Inundation Map

Interested in knowing more about how storm surges can affect communities along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts?  EPA has just posted a new Storm Surge Inundation Map that can help.

The Storm Surge Inundation Map is an interactive map that illustrates the current worst-case storm surge and inundation scenarios on the American Gulf and Atlantic coasts, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The map combines data layers from FEMA 100 and 500 year flood maps as well as NOAA’s Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) and National Hurricane Center’s coastal county hurricane strike maps.  Explore the map on EPA’s website.



DHS Develops Low-Cost Device to Facilitate Emergency Communications

[This article originally appeared in the January 15, 2015 WaterISAC PRO UPDATE.  ASDWA has added the link to the DHS website that provides additional detail on this new device.]

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has developed a low-cost, stand-alone device that allows for interoperability between otherwise incompatible communications systems. Oftentimes emergency responders encounter challenges during crises because of incompatible equipment, and agencies cannot easily replace or upgrade all of their systems because doing so can be prohibitively expensive. The new device, the Radio Internet Protocol Communications Module (RIC-M), connects radio-frequency (RF) system base stations, consoles, and other RF equipment – regardless of brand – for less than $500.

For more information and details about this device, please click this link Radio Internet Protocol Communications Module

Check Out the New Climate Resilience Toolkit

In December 2014, U.S. Federal government agencies, led by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality, published a compendium of resources that can help people take action to build climate resilience.  These actions were taken in response to the President’s Climate Action Plan and Executive Order to help the nation prepare for climate-related changes and impacts.

The Climate Resilience Toolkit  is the result of the combined Federal efforts.  For some, taking a business-as-usual approach has become more risky than taking steps to build their climate resilience. Although not water specific, the Toolkit offers ways to reduce climate-related vulnerabilities and find win-win opportunities that simultaneously boost local economies, create new jobs, and improve the health of ecosystems. This is a climate-smart approach—investing in activities that build resilience and capacity while reducing risk.

What’s in the Toolkit? How can it help?

Using plain language, the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit helps people face climate problems and find climate opportunities. The site offers:

  • Steps to Resilience—a five-step process you can follow to initiate, plan, and implement projects to become more resilient to climate-related hazards.
  • Taking Action stories—real-world case studies describing climate-related risks and opportunities that communities and businesses face, steps they’re taking to plan and respond, and tools and techniques they’re using to improve resilience.
  • A catalog of freely available Tools for accessing and analyzing climate data, generating visualizations, exploring climate projections, estimating hazards, and engaging stakeholders in resilience-building efforts.
  • Climate Explorer—a visualization tool that offers maps of climate stressors and impacts as well as interactive graphs showing daily observations and long-term averages from thousands of weather stations.
  • Topic narratives that explain how climate variability and change can impact particular regions of the country and sectors of society.
  • Pointers to free, federally developed training coursesthat can build skills for using climate tools and data.
  • Maps highlighting the locations of centers where federal and state agencies can provide regional climate information.
  • The ability to Search the entire Federal government’s climate science domain and filter results according to your interests.

For more information, please go to http://toolkit.climate.gov/

AWWA Hosting Contamination Incidents Guidance Webinar

On January 21, AWWA is hosting a webinar entitled Water Contamination Incidents & Response Guidance.

The most significant Emergency Preparedness & Security incidents to occur in the US in the past year have been two contamination events – the Charleston, West Virginia (January 2014) Elk River spill and the Toledo, Ohio (August 2014) algal bloom in Lake Erie.  The purpose of this webinar is to study these two incidents, and then review the US Environmental Protection Agency’s official guidance on response to drinking water contamination events.

DATE:  Wednesday, January 21, 2015

TIME:   1:00-2:30PM (eastern)

REGISTER:  Click Water Contamination Incidents & Response Guidance.

COST:  $75/AWWA Members; $120/NonMembers

Please note that the AWWA website also offers the following caveat:  “By registering for this webinar, you submit your information to the sponsors who will use it to communicate with you regarding this event and their services.”

Learn How to Weather “The Perfect Storm”

EPA’s Water Lab Alliance is continuing to host a webinar tabletop exercise series based on “The Perfect Storm.”  The exercise examines the coordination of laboratory services in response to a drinking water contamination incident. The scenario-based exercises provide utilities, state and local governments, emergency responders, and laboratory personnel with the opportunity to answer questions based on their real-life experiences and knowledge of emergency response practices and procedures contained in the Water Laboratory Alliance Response Plan (WLA-RP). Exercise participants will receive first-hand experience with Water Sector emergency response “best practices” and Water Security tools and resources.

There are four more opportunities to attend and participate in one of these exercise webinars:

January 14, 1:00-3:00PM (eastern)

February 18, 10:00AM-Noon (eastern)

March 11, 1:00-3:00PM (eastern)

April 15, 10:00AM-Noon (eastern)

REGISTER:  http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/watersecurity/wla/training.cfm.

Please also forward this invitation to any of your colleagues or other response partners that you feel would benefit from this training exercise. For more information about the exercise, please see the flyer link below.

Perfect Storm TTX flyer_2014_2015_07312014



EPA WSD Offers “How To” VSAT and WHEAT Training

Not sure what’s different about the updated VSAT 6.0 tool?  Unclear on how to access WHEAT version 3 and what it contains?  Uncertain as to what either of these terms mean?  As a start, VSAT stands for Vulnerability Self Assessment Tool and WHEAT is the acronym for Water Health and Economic Analysis Tool.  Both tools have undergone recent upgrades and improvements to make them more useful to the water sector.

EPA’s Water Security Division is hosting a series of 2-day workshops around the nation to help water and wastewater utilities – and the state staff who assist those systems with risk/vulnerability assessments – understand the tool components and make better use of these enhanced tools.  Workshops have been scheduled between February and June 2015 in ten different states.  Registration is open now.  Please see the flyer below to learn more about the classroom training topics, dates, and locations.

Please share this information with water and wastewater systems in your state who have a “need to know” and consider attending yourself so that you’ll be better positioned to support your water systems as they work through approaches and techniques to enhance their security posture.

For questions related to these workshops, please contact Dan Schmelling at EPA-WSD schmelling.dan@epa.gov

VSAT Classroom Training Spring 2015