Wireless Security for Water/Wastewater Networks

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Wireless technologies have been used for decades in the water/waste water industry in a multitude of applications including tank level indication, pump and motor control, flow and pressure monitoring, etc. However, recent concerns regarding the potential for hacking and cyber-attacks into these wireless systems have raised the importance of wireless security to a new high. This paper will discuss security issues within an Industrial Wireless Network, and address the ways in which these networks can be designed to be more reliable while being more secure.

On April 23, 2000, millions of liters of raw sewage were pumped into the public waterways, parks and the grounds of a Hyatt Regency hotel in Maroochydore, Queensland Australia in what is believed to be the first successful wireless hacking attack on a public water system. Vitek Boden, a disgruntled employee of the contractor that installed the waste management system, was convicted on hacking charges and damaging the environment, and sentenced to 3 years in prison. The Maroochy Shire Council then spent another $176,000 to improve security and monitoring after the incident, during which it had hired private investigators to track Boden, ending in a police car chase in which Boden was forced off the road and arrested.

The above incident illustrates that wireless hacking of water systems can be done, and if proper security is not maintained, the network is then left open to anyone with sufficient motivation.