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What can we learn from the Oldsmar water supply hack?

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Following a recent water supply hack in Florida, Phillip Corner, industrial systems cybersecurity expert at control systems firm Cougar Automation, stresses the need for business decision makers and technical professionals in safety and security to work closely together to understand risk.

On Friday 5 February, a hacker used a common remote access application to take control of an employee’s computer at the municipal water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida. During the cyberattack, which required little sophistication, the hacker changed the level of sodium hydroxide in the town’s water supply from 100 parts per million to a dangerous 11,100 parts per million.

It is not yet clear what real risk this posed to the safety of the water supply, since well-designed systems would have multiple levels of checks for potentially dangerous chemical concentrations. Still, this kind of intrusion is a growing concern not just for water plants but all operators of critical infrastructure, many of whom are undergoing digital transformation and may have had to accelerate plans for remote access because of COVID-19.

Without effective cybersecurity measures, the same systems that allow engineers and contractors to remotely carry out routine adjustments and maintenance can also be exploited by hackers wishing to inflict harm.

The investment challenge
The municipal utility system in the USA, where each town or city has its own small water and electricity companies, means that providers may not have the resources to implement complex cybersecurity protection, leaving them especially vulnerable to attack. Although we have a different model in the UK, where larger private companies supply utilities regionally, British operators still face investment challenges.

Ofwat (The Water Services Regulation Authority) highly regulates what private water and sewerage companies in England and Wales can spend on improving their infrastructure. They are required to set out their budgets for improving quality, replacing outdated assets and implementing security measures as much as five years in advance. This is problematic given the risks of cybercrime are evolving much faster than the investment allocated to mitigate them.

Make do and mend
Moreover, a common factor across industry is that with a limited budget for modernisation, there may be little appetite for going back and investing in improvements to old systems if companies can make do a bit longer until a new system is installed. Our approach when working with customers on existing systems is to help them understand where the greatest risks are and suggest a package of improvements that will achieve the best cost-benefit ratio until it is time for replacement. If remote access is the biggest risk, for example, we can look at securing it with a cost-effective solution to reduce the risk in the meantime.

If it is not secure, it is not safe
Of course, cybersecurity should be an integral part of every new tender in the same way that safety is – not a bolt-on solution – and we are seeing this mindset shift across the industry. Nobody would dream of leaving safety risk assessment until the end of a project and the same is true for cybersecurity. The IEC 61511 safety standard for the process industries updated in 2016 essentially says that any system dealing with functional safety must include cybersecurity measures. The guiding principle is that if it is not secure, it is not safe. And since the NIS (Security of Network & Information Systems) regulations came out in 2018, essential service operators, including utilities, are legally bound to consider cybersecurity. If an operator is hacked and someone gets hurt, the operator can be prosecuted under safety legislation.

Secure by design
In the case of the Oldsmar attack, many might wonder why it was possible for anyone – authorised or otherwise – to make such a drastic change to the level of a potentially dangerous chemical. Processes have diverse requirements so when designing systems for industrial processes, we work with the customer to identify their unique requirements and set reasonable limits for all eventualities to match the physical sizing of the plant.

It is also good systems integration practice to have other checks and balances in the background that alert to any anomalies. Lessons learned mean safety monitoring systems are continually improved and in many cases these systems are an ultimate failsafe for cyber incidents. However, we should not get to the stage where we are relying on safety measures to mitigate cybersecurity attacks. Safety and security professionals can work together to minimise vulnerability to targeted attacks as well as accidents.

The broader industrial risk
The Oldsmar incident was an intentional malicious action, although it is not yet clear if this was specifically targeted at the operator. However, all operators are at risk of untargeted or collateral disruption from ransomware. If an attacker can gain remote access like this they could also use ransomware for extortion, but ransomware need not be specifically targeted. Vulnerable Internet connected devices, infected portable computers, and USB flash drives can all result in infection.

Ransomware is one of the biggest risks in industry right now and for organised criminals today cybercrime is what narcotics were in the 1980s. This makes it vital for all businesses to take steps to protect their people, equipment, local environment, reputation and finances from harm – and at VINCI Energies we help our customers with the whole range of cyber risk controls.

Find out more at: www.vinci-energies.co.uk

The post What can we learn from the Oldsmar water supply hack? first appeared on Envirotec. Source: https://envirotecmagazine.com/2021/02/25/what-can-we-learn-from-the-oldsmar-water-supply-hack/

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Waymo CEO Krafcik Steps Down — Does It Mean Anything?

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The longtime CEO of Waymo, John Krafcik, has been leading what many consider to be the leading autonomous driving company since 2015 — 6 years. Though, the news is that Krafcik and/or higher-ups at Alphabet decided it was time for him to find a new passion. He is stepping down as CEO and Waymo will now be led by co-CEOs, Dmitri Dolgov, previously Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and Tekedra Mawakana, previously Chief Operating Officer (COO).

The top question is: does this mean anything? Is Krafcik stepping down because he has failed to deliver on key targets? Is commercial rollout going too slowly? Are autonomous capabilities progressing too slowly? Has Krafcik accomplished what he set out to accomplish and is now ready for either new challenges or early retirement?

Notably, Krafcik recently got into a little communications tussle with Tesla. Krafcik claimed that Tesla’s “full self-driving” system isn’t the right approach toward a fully autonomous vehicle. He considers it a dead end.

“It is a misconception that you can simply develop a driver-assistance system further until one day you can magically jump to a fully autonomous driving system,” Krafcik said in an interview with Manager Magazin.

Naturally, Tesla CEO Elon Musk sees it differently. He expects that the only way to get to truly useful self-driving vehicles is through the vision + deep machine learning system it is continuously improving. It must feel like a frantic race to solve a giant puzzle to many of the members of these teams — that’s certainly what it looks like from the outside. With the different approaches, though, it’s not just a race — one of the companies may be putting the puzzle together in the wrong way.

(NNs = neural networks.)

 



 


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/03/waymo-ceo-krafcik-steps-down-does-it-mean-anything/

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The Fossil Fuel Industry Used Deception To Conceal Damage To BIPOC — NAACP Report

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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) just published a report titled Fossil Fuel Foolery, which identified 10 tactics that the fossil fuel industry used as excuses for not accepting accountability for its impacts on the environment and human health. DesmogBlog noted that the industry used a long list of deceptive tactics that concealed environmental destruction harming Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) as well as low-income communities. Not surprising — the fossil fuel industry only cares about money, and if the planet and human health stand in the way of that, so be it.

The article gave a snapshot of the report findings, and one of the most disturbing things I took notice of was the common tactic that the NAACP described as “co-opt community leaders and organizations and misrepresent the interests and opinions of communities,” sometimes with financial support, to “neutralize or weaken public opposition.”

In short, fossil fuel companies and utilities pour donations on churches, nonprofits, and advocacy organizations to pretty much secure the local community buy-in on projects that generate pollution. The article said it plainly: “to stifle the push towards renewable energy.” And that also includes misrepresenting the community through one or two hired hands.

One example noted in the article is Florida Power & Light’s donation of around $225,000 to the NAACP’s Florida state chapter between 2013 and 2017. Just after these donations, the Florida chapter began repeating industry talking points against the growth of solar energy. This helped accelerate the NAACP’s Initial 2019 report. In addition, the fossil fuel industry and its allies shift the blame onto the very communities affected the most by pollution to distract from the impact of industry operations. This sounds like a narcissistic abuser. Hurt someone and then blame them and convince them it’s their fault.

Last month, President Biden brought attention to a common nickname that encompasses my own city, Cancer Alley. In Louisiana, Cancer Alley is an area along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge (where I live) and New Orleans — the River Parishes of Louisiana where numerous industrial plants are located. This area has clusters of cancer patients and the constant coverage by the media led to the nickname.

President Biden spoke out about the petrochemical facilities that dump out the large quantities of toxic pollution onto predominantly Black communities, and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) accused the President of slamming our area. Considering Senator Cassidy’s stance in favor of fossil fuels, this isn’t surprising. Earlier this year, President Biden signed executive orders to transform our nation’s heavily fossil-fuel-powered economy into a clean-energy one and paused oil and gas leasing on federal land. President Biden also targeted removing subsidies for those industries. Senator Cassidy and Senator Kennedy spoke out against the President’s orders and in favor of the fossil fuel industry.

“Biden’s executive orders are counterproductive. They eliminate jobs and send them overseas to countries with worse environmental standards, increasing global emissions. We don’t need symbolism — we need solutions. So far, all we are seeing from this administration is an ‘energy’ agenda that betrays the working Americans who thought that this President was going to work for them.” — Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

DeSmogBlog noted that when United Nations human rights official issued a statement last month calling ”the development of petrochemical complexes” in the region “a form of environmental racism,” Senator Cassidy had some words to say about this. It should be noted that Senator Cassidy received around $600,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry during the 2020 election season. The fossil fuel-addicted senator pointed to obesity and cigarettes as the causes of cancer instead of the rampant pollution.

Late last year, I went down to the riverfront and was fortunate to have had my N95 mask — the chemicals from the plant across the river not only created a haze but made the air foul. That smell was well worse than cigarette smoke. I wrote about it here because it was so striking.

The Top 10 Fossil Fuel Industry Tactics

The NAACP listed the top 10 fossil fuel industry tactics that shift the blame and responsibility of its impact on BIPOC communities. They are as follows:

  1. Invest in efforts that undermine democracy.
  2. Finance political campaigns and pressure politicians.
  3. Fund scientists and scientific research institutions to publish biased research.
  4. Say government regulations hurt the economy and low-income communities.
  5. Deny or understate the harms polluting facilities cause to people and the environment.
  6. Deflect responsibility–shit blame to the communities they pollute.
  7. Co-opt community leaders and organizations and misrepresent the interest and opinions of communities.
  8. Exaggerate the level of job creation and downplay the lack of quality and safety in jobs.
  9. Praise false solutions while claiming that real solutions are impractical, impossible, or harmful for BIPOC and poor communities.
  10. “Embrace” renewables to control the new energy economy.

Some Key Highlights From The Report

The highly detailed report actually has information that is highly disturbing. For example, in 1980, ALEC founder Paul Weyrich stated: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

In 2010, the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission determined that limited political spending by corporations restricted their constitutional right to freedom of expression. This shifted the political power away from citizens to corporations and special interest groups.

Also, leading up to the 2020 election, the American Petroleum Institute spent over $5 million in lobbying practices. The group funneled money to campaign contributions — mostly financing the Senate Leadership Fund, which is a super PAC that supports the Republican Party. From the report:

“With financial support from the fossil fuel industry, politicians actively support destructive energy practices, falsely claim that emissions, not fossil fuels, are the enemy and draft diluted environmental agendas that focus on planting trees instead of shutting down industrially polluted, cancerous alleys.”

E = MC2: Enviro-lies = Manipulaiton X Ca$h

In this section of the report with the clever above headline, it noted that the Center for American Progress identified over 50 research agreements in a 2010 report. These agreements were between universities and major energy companies, where the companies donated a range between $1 million and $500 million toward energy-related research.

Another example cites a 1997 study by the National Centre for Cancer Institute which found that the chemical benzene, which is found in crude oil and gasoline, was connected to the development of chronic diseases in workers exposed to it. Following this report, several petrochemical companies gave nearly $40 million to fund scientific research “designed to protect member company interests.” One example of this type of research is the Shanghai Research Project which published research that supported the petrochemical companies’ practices.

Fossil Fuel Emissions Kill

The report noted that around 63,000 Americans are killed each year by air pollution and these Americans are disproportionally BIPOC and low-income community residents. Senator Cassidy can blame fat people and cigarettes all day, but it won’t change the fact that 40% of communities of color and low-income communities live within three miles of power plants that emit particulate matter that taints our air quality. Last year when the Exxon plant had that explosion — and, yes, despite what officials said, there were reports of an actual explosion (I was less than five miles away from the explosion) — who knows what was pumped into our air?

You can read the NAACP’s full report here.

 



 


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/02/the-fossil-fuel-industry-used-deception-to-conceal-damage-to-bipoc-naacp-report/

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Reports: Tesla Plans To Start Building 5 Semi Trucks A Week

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Tesla is building a low-volume Tesla Semi production line, and once it’s complete, Tesla reportedly plans to produce 5 Tesla Semi electric trucks on a weekly basis, reports Yahoo! Finance. The article noted that the low-volume production line is being built in a new building in the industrial park where the Nevada Gigafactory is located. Tesla is also still planning for volume production of the Semi trucks to be manufactured at Giga Texas once it’s able to ramp up battery production there.

On Monday, Tesla received a new order for 10 of its Semi EVs along with two Megachargers. Benzinga reported that this was backed with almost $2 million in federal government support. The Mobile Source Air Pollution Review Committee is investing in a clean transportation initiative on California’s southern coast. As a part of this investment, it awarded MXS Leasing LLC, which is a logistics company based in California, $1.8 million for the deployment of 10 Tesla Semi Class 8 semi trucks and an additional $560,000 for the deployment for two overhead electric cranes.

Momentum, the company that assisted MHX with its application for the funding, said that the deal includes two Megachargers at MXH’s Fontana, California, site. Just after that news broke, Tesla’s Elon Musk tweeted that Semi demand isn’t a problem, but that near-term cell supply makes it hard to scale the Semi. He also noted that this limitation will be less onerous next year.

Although many seem to view this as another delay, it should be noted, as Teslarati pointed out, that Elon Musk was talking about the difficulties of scaling the Semi’s manufacturing. The idea of Tesla actually producing its first few Semis in 2021 still seems possible.  This thought seems backed up by the new report noting that Tesla plans to produce 5 of its Semis on a weekly basis once the low-volume production line is completed.

 



 


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/02/reports-tesla-plans-to-start-building-5-semi-trucks-a-week/

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Chevy Bolt Sales Jump 53.7%

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The Chevy Bolt is not the most exciting or flamboyant electric car on the market — it’s not a Tesla or the Ford Mustang Mach-E. However, it is the electric vehicle I see most often on the roads around me aside from all of Tesla’s models. It’s exciting and uplifting to see them, even if the car never put a tingle in the back of my neck.

One thing the Bolt does have in common with the Mach-E is that, love it or not, its sales are pretty weak. That’s not going to change, because it’s a vehicle class that is just not that popular in America. However, the good news is that things are looking up for the little Bolt EV.

In the first quarter of 2021, the Chevy Bolt EV’s sales rose 53.7% over its sales in the first quarter of 2020. In fact, it was the Bolt EV’s best first quarter in history. (Admittedly, it’s not a very long history, but the Bolt EV was the first long-range, semi-affordable electric car on the US market.)

The Bolt EV had 9,025 US sales last quarter, up from 5,873 sales in the first quarter of 2020. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Bolt EV had just 9,025 US sales last quarter. Multiply that by 4 and you don’t even get to 40,000 sales a year. Heck, you don’t even get to 37,000 sales a year.

You’re not going to cut enough emissions, GM, with under 40,000 electric vehicle sales a year in the 2020s. Tesla likely scored more than 22,000 first-quarter Model 3 sales in the US and 43,000+ first-quarter Model Y sales here. GM needs to understand why its EV of a similar age does so much worse, and how the company could get closer to Tesla’s numbers. The electric revolution is not going to slow down, and a model getting under 100,000 — let alone under 40,000 — annual sales is not going to be seen as a leader for long.

“What about the Bolt EUV? It’s bigger than the little Bolt EV.” Well, we’ll see. …

Chevy Bolt EUV fleet ready for test drives. Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica.

Chevy Bolt EUV with attractive backdrop. Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica.

Inside a Chevy Bolt EUV. Photo by Kyle Field, CleanTechnica.

 



 


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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/04/02/chevy-bolt-sales-jump-53-7/

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