Innovation That Matters

SIGA helps to protect vital water infrastructure | Photo source Pixabay

Protecting water supplies with cybersecurity

Computing & Tech

A monitoring platform for water systems uses a novel approach to prevent cyber threats to operational technology

Spotted: While we usually think of hackers attacking businesses and individuals, there are also frequent attacks on operational technology (OT) – hardware and software that monitors and controls physical processes and infrastructure, such as utilities. In 2016, hackers breached a regional United States water utility, taking control of hundreds of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that governed the flow of water treatment chemicals. The hackers changed the level of those chemicals, endangering thousands of lives.

The incident highlighted the vulnerability of global water OT infrastructure – a vulnerability that operational security firm SIGA is aiming to plug with its ‘incipient failure detection’ technology. The company’s SigaPlatform uses machine learning and predictive analytics to monitor electric signals and detect anomalies and threats to critical infrastructure in real-time. The system is designed to identify anomalies at an early stage, allowing operators to prevent damage.

SIGA’s system monitors raw electrical signals at points where they cannot be hacked, the so-called Level 0 processes of the sensors and actuators, rather than examining data packets later on. This means the company can detect process anomalies faster and at far greater resolution than other types of detection systems, which rely on filtering electrical signals at higher levels. The platform also consolidates sensor data in one place, helping operators to manage assets more efficiently and prevent service interruptions.

A safe water supply and effective wastewater management are vital to all modern societies – which is why ensuring access to water and sanitation is UN Development Goal 6. It is also why many innovators are focusing on finding better and more sustainable ways to achieve this. Recent advances include a process that uses algae to clean water, instead of chemicals, and a mapping app that tracks water and sanitation issues – making them easier and faster to fix.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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