Israel tech to protect NY water systems from cyberattacks

New York environmental agency, Jerusalem provider pen deal to defend resources from infrastructure terrorists

(L to R) Major General James A. Hayer, US Army;  Zohar Yinon, CEO of Hagihon; Kevin Harry, US Army; Steve Levitz, DEP Director (Dima Kreminski)
(L to R) Major General James A. Hayer, US Army; Zohar Yinon, CEO of Hagihon; Kevin Harry, US Army; Steve Levitz, DEP Director (Dima Kreminski)

New York City and Jerusalem will work together to keep each other’s water supplies safe, according to a new agreement signed between the New York Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Jerusalem’s Hagihon water provider. Under the deal, the two agencies will develop defenses against “infrastructure terrorists” who target networks in order to interfere with the delivery of clean, safe water to homes and businesses.

Like most infrastructure — including electricity and gas systems — water purification and distribution facilities as well as sewage reclamation and disposal systems are controlled today by computers, often using SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition technology), a type of automated computer system that controls machinery, transportation systems, gas stations, utilities and electrical grids.

But SCADA systems pose a major cybersecurity challenge, said Eugene Kaspersky, chairman and CEO of Kaspersky Lab. Speaking in Israel at a cybersecurity conference in June, the cybersecurity guru said that while hackers were currently using their talents to steal money, for the most part, sabotage of infrastructure – like electrical grids and water systems – was a major threat to governments around the world.

“There is an international army consisting of tens of thousands of engineers out there developing SCADA malware,” said Kaspersky. “One day, a terrorist organization is going to get the bright idea to acquire one of these tools and deploy it to make their ideological point. If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s just a matter of time until it does.”

Israel, known for its cybersecurity technology, is the right place to search for systems to defend against infrastructure attacks, said Zohar Yinon, CEO of Hagihon.

“This agreement will help us determine the criteria needed to defend systems against cyberattacks, and it will also give a boost to Israeli cybersecurity firms, enabling them to deploy their technology in the United States.”

This is not the first cybersecurity deal on infrastructure between Israel and New York. Last year, BIRD, the Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation, announced that it was providing a $900,000 grant to help the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Israel’s mPrest to develop software that can rapidly detect malfunctioning power transformers before they cause larger problems on the electric grid. Research assistance will be supplied by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

Yokne’am-based mPrest was one of the principle designers of the Iron Dome system, developing the mathematical and scientific formulas that direct the missile defense system to knock out enemy missiles. Last year, mPrest used the same technology to develop a system to detect signals on the electrical network that would indicate a power failure was on the way, automatically shutting down or rerouting power to ensure that the lights stayed on.

That technology was deployed in Israel in the form of the Electricity Information Grid, a system designed to keep an eye on electricity data flows, and to ensure that nothing is amiss in how power is being deployed on the electrical grid. The local version of the project was initiated last November with the Israel Electric Corporation, and now it is to be exported to the NYPA.

Steve Lawitt, who heads DEP, said that he was “very satisfied” with the agreement, adding that it’s a regulatory necessity. “We need to ensure that we are ready to deal with the worrying trend of cyberattacks that are getting more and more sophisticated.”

“Together,” he added, “New York and Jerusalem will be able to find the right defense systems and ensure that their populations have access to clean, safe water.”

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