Drivers line up at a Shell gas station to buy fuel as gas shortages continue in several mid-Atlantic states on May 13, 2021, during the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack. The White House said it will add the water sector to its cybersecurity initiative to protect utilities. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The White House said Thursday it plans to improve cybersecurity in the nation's water sector by extending the Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Initiative to bulk up protections for such utilities.
The need for cybersecurity around utilities was highlighted last year with the hacking of Colonial Pipeline in May that crippled the daily delivery of about 100 million gallons of fuel causing panic for motorists nationwide. Cyberattacks the following month at JBS USA and Pilgrim's Pride temporarily shut down production at those meat plants.
"The incidents at Colonial Pipeline, JBS Foods and other high-profile critical infrastructure providers are an important reminder that the federal government has limited authorities to set cybersecurity baselines for critical infrastructure and managing this risk requires partnership with the private sector and municipal owners and operators of that infrastructure," the White House said in a statement.
The White House said the current cybersecurity initiatives cover more than 150 electricity utilities serving more than 90 million residential customers and multiple critical natural gas pipelines.
In adding the water sector, the administration said a plan will be developed over the next 100 days to outline surge actions to protect cyber concerns. The plan will be created with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Water Sector Coordinating Council.
The White House will be looking to counter and disrupt potential ransomware attacks and its infrastructure by bolstering public and private resilience to withstand ransomware attacks.
Early this month after an appeal from President Joe Biden, Russian authorities arrested the hacker behind the ransomware attack behind the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack.