Are US water resource systems vulnerable to cyber-risk
in the near term (five years)?

And if so, what is the nature of the threat?

Subject: Cyber Risks to Water Supply Systems
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 97
Thesis by Barry Ezell <>

Click HERE for Barry Ezell's thesis in on assessing the vulnerabilities of SCADA systems to cyber attacks. Recently, you may have heard about the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure to determine the risk of our infrastructures to different types of attack. The Center of Risk Management at UVA, along with industry and other universities are researching the water resources infrastructure for the Presidential Commission. A subset of that research is the cyber terrorist component, which is my domain. Barry's thesis is written to answer the following question:

Are US water resource systems vulnerable to cyber risk in the near term (five years)? And if so, what is the nature of the threat?

His survey has assisted me in gathering information about cyber risks to SCADA systems controlling water supply from utilities and companies around the world. At this time the survey is still active and posted at:




Barry C. Ezell
Graduate Student, Systems Engineering Department, University of Virginia

Advisor: Professor Yacov Y. Haimes
Lawrence R. Quarles Professor of Systems Engineering and Civil Engineering
Director, Center for Risk Management of Engineering Systems
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA 22901

We are interested in finding ways to improve a system's redundancy, robustness, and resilency to intrusion using risk assessment and management with respect to systems engineering. The center piece to our research is the model we are developing. Additional information about our survey, risk, and systems engineering is listed below.


The purpose of this survey is to gather information about the cyber threat. The ultimate goal of this research is to make our water system more survivable to a cyber attack. Note: All references to cities and people will be eliminated from the thesis. Also, data will be aggregated to protect cities.


The survey is constructed to provide feedback with respect to risk assessment and management. We are interested in assessing the redundancies, robustness, and resiliency of current SCADA systems. In order to accomplish this, we are very interested in the following:

1. Redundancy of the system. Redundancy refers to the ability of certain components of a system to assume functions of failed components without adversely affecting the performance of the system itself.

2. Robustness of the system. Robustness refers to the degree of insensitivity of a system design to errors in the estimates of those parameters affecting design choice. Robustness or those properties that make the system less vulnerable to attack (stability).

3. Resiliency of the system. Resilience is the ability of a system to operate close to its closest possible design technically and institutionally over a short run after an attack, such that the losses are within manageable limits.

If you have questions or comments regarding this work, please email me at or, If you feel uncomfortable or unqualified answering a question, please fill free to simply leave blank.

My phone number is 804 975 3525.

Barry Ezell
Captain (P), United States Army
Graduate Student, Systems Engineering, UVA
804 975 3525 (home)

Home page:

Thesis survey site: