Smart surveillance and water utilities


Utilities are considered a part of a country’s critical infrastructure, so how can we secure these facilities both digitally and with physical security solutions? 

In February this year, the world learned about a digital attack at the water treatment plant serving the 15,000-people in the City of Oldsmar, Florida. An operator at the water treatment plant observed someone remotely take control of his mouse and use it to change the setting of sodium hydroxide within the water from 100 parts per million (ppm) to 11,100 ppm. 

This change could have endangered public health if the operator had not immediately undone the attacker’s work and if the water treatment plant didn’t already have safety measures in place. Those who perpetrated the attack did so after compromising the water treatment plant’s TeamViewer software, according to local media reports. Attacks such as the one at Oldsmar highlight the need for water facilities to continue honing their ability to defend themselves against physical and digital attacks.  

In addition to bettering cyber resilience in critical infrastructure, additional physical security for water and wastewater/stormwater facilities is beneficial for continuity of business, protection of water quality, provision of sufficient water quantity, ensuring public confidence, and protection of public health and safety. 

Meraj Khan, Key Account Manager End Customer, Axis Communications explores exclusively for Security Buyer how smart surveillance can help protect water utilities. The provision of clean water is undoubtedly a critical aspect of a functioning society, and even this may be understating its importance.  

The utilities that are responsible for the treatment and provision of water are therefore rightly considered part of a country’s critical infrastructure and require the same level of protection as power stations, healthcare, telecommunications infrastructure and any other essential facility.  

The challenges of protecting water facilities are unique, but the increasing application of smart technologies – including video surveillance, access control and connected sensors – are transforming the security and safety of national and local water infrastructure. 

Supporting different categories of water facilities 

Every country will have thousands of water and wastewater facilities, from reservoirs containing billions of litres of water to smaller water treatment plants, and often in remote locations. Each will have security, safety and management requirements, but of significantly differing scale and with varying levels of on-site resource. 

While all water facilities will serve an important role, a small proportion will be seen by regulators as being of critical importance: widescale disruption of operations or contamination of the water supply at these facilities will present an immediate risk to citizens and businesses. As a result, these sites will benefit from using effective network surveillance and security solutions, as well as likely having on-site security staff. 

Smaller water and wastewater facilities are less likely to have permanent staffing, with site managers – responsible for security among a number of other activities – having responsibility for several sites, potentially spread over a wide geographic area. Modern surveillance and security technologies, combined with appropriate automation, will deliver operational efficiencies and cost savings while optimising security and resilience. 

It is also important to note that, contrary to some perceptions, network video surveillance solutions don’t necessarily require a connection to the wider web – they can be effective when operating on a local area network on a single site. 


To read the full article see our December-January issue available in the new year.

Media contact

Rebecca Morpeth Spayne,
Editor, Security Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922

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