US-Israel SCADA malware
New York City-Jerusalem SCADA malware
Members of the US Army were present at the signing of the agreement between Israeli Hagihon water utility and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (Pic credit: Times of Israel)

A US-Israeli agreement signed this week between New York City and Jerusalem is set to bolster the security of water utility infrastructure against SCADA malware.

New York's Department of Environmental Protection and Jerusalem’s Hagihon water provider yesterday agreed to jointly develop their defences against 'infrastructure terrorists' who target networks to interfere with water supply, reports The Times of Israel.

Commenting on the collaboration, Zohar Yinon, CEO of Hagihon, Israel's largest municipal water and wastewater utility, said Israel is becoming known for its cyber security technology and is the right place to search for systems to defend against infrastructure attacks.

Mr Yinon said: “This agreement will help us determine the criteria needed to defend systems against cyber attacks, and it will also give a boost to Israeli cyber security firms, enabling them to deploy their technology in the United States.”

SCADA malware attacks

The need to secure SCADA-controlled infrastructure was highlighted by Eugene Kaspersky, chairman and CEO of global cyber security company Kaspersky Lab at a conference in Israel in June, writes the Times of Israel.

Mr Kaspersky said: "There is an international army consisting of tens of thousands of engineers out there developing SCADA malware.

“One day, a terrorist organisation is going to get the bright idea to acquire one of these tools and deploy it to make their ideological point.

He added: "If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s just a matter of time until it does.”

Electric grid defence

The news of the agreement follows cooperation in June 2015 between New York and Israel on electric grid protection.

The Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation supplied a US$900,000 grant to help the New York Power Authority and Israel’s MPrest develop software to detect malfunctioning power transformers.

Research assistance is being supplied by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

Iron Dome technology

Iron Dome SCADA malware
Canada and the US have both expressed interest in using the adapted Iron Dome missile defence system to detect irregularities in their electrical grids

Control software company MPrest is a principle designer of the Iron Dome system, a missile defence system that is being adapted to detect signals on the electrical network that would indicate a power failure was on the way, automatically shutting down or rerouting power.

In January 2015, Canada signed a deal to deploy Itron Dome technology in the service territory of an electric utility.

The partnership was made possible through the CAD$5 million (US$4 million) Canada-Israel Energy Science and Technology Fund.

Developed as missile defence system, Itron Dome works by calculating the risk of incoming rocket fire to civilian targets and only fires when there is risk.