hacker in computer illustration
Credit: Illustration by Cecily Mireles

Bad actors can target water supplies in different ways. Sometimes it’s a physical attack: In January 2021, a hacker tried to poison a Bay Area water treatment plant, according to reporting from NBC News.

But cybersecurity is increasingly important as more water systems rely on remote access to operators to control them. Ransomware attacks, where cybercriminals hold online systems hostage until victims pay a ransom, have already come for California schools and local governments. Water systems are potential targets to be taken offline.

When water systems detect a potential security breach or identify threats, they are supposed to consult with local law enforcement and report to the Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center.