Since 2020 and 2021 (so far) haven’t been frightening enough, just days before the Super Bowl a hacker tried to break into a Florida city’s water system in order to increase the amount of sodium hydroxide (aka lye) in the city’s water, a potentially deadly and caustic poison.
Thankfully the hacker wasn’t terribly sophisticated and the nefarious attempts were identified and blocked, but it does expose how our increasingly connected world is increasingly vulnerable to nefarious actors. As technology evolves and public utilities, along with nearly every other aspect of our lives, become more connected, and as the move towards 5G allows for more remote monitoring, more opportunities are available to cause harm.
From our homes to our finances, from our cars to our offices and our communities, the need for cybersecurity is only increasing, expanding the tailwinds behind our Cybersecurity and Privacy investment theme Cybersecurity and Privacy investment theme.
Federal investigators are searching for the hacker behind an attempted poisoning of a Florida city’s water system just days before the Super Bowl.
Source: Hack in Florida city’s water system reveals potential cyber risks of many local communities – CBS News
As time continues to pass since Hurricane Harvey and Irma, we’re hearing more about more disruptions to electricity and water that will call for significant spending to rebuild utility infrastructure. We’ve seen price gouging for bottled water near Houston, and we suspect the same is occurring in parts of Florida as people look for this once again Scarce Resource that is clean drinking water. We’ll be eyeing comments from companies like American Water Works (AWK) and Aqua America (WTR) on how their water treatment capacity has been affected, and what it means for their capital spending plans going forward.
In addition to the billions of dollars of damage from wind and the rain, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have trashed the wastewater systems in the cities they tore through.
Untreated water has combined with all the flooding from storm surges to fill the cities and surrounding areas, posing health risks for people trying to return to normalcy.In Florida, city pipelines are able to withstand about twice the amount of water than they’re built to filter.
The past two hurricanes have completely overwhelmed these systems, and pipes have overflowed with millions of gallons of untreated water into streets, homes, and along the coasts of the state.
Texas water treatment centers haven’t fared too well either; the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that at least 40 of the 1,219 wastewater treatment centers in the area surrounding Houston are temporarily out of commission in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Without proper treatment, wastewater can carry all sorts of bacteria that can lead to illnesses. According to an independent report conducted by the New York Times (paywall), Houston is experiencing an outbreak of E. Coli, a type of bacteria typically found in human waste that can cause gastrointestinal illnesses if accidentally consumed.
In addition to E. Coli, flood waters also likely contain other infectious bacteria that cause stomach flus or, like the microbe that causes tetanus, infect open wounds.
Source: Hurricanes Irma and Harvey overwhelmed wastewater treatment centers in Florida and Texas — Quartz
On Apple’s June quarter earnings call CEO Tim Cook shared expectations for the company’s Services revenue “to be the size of a Fortune 100 company next year.” We like the move into subscription services that generate recurring revenue and predictable cash flow, but we tend to doubt Apple Energy will share in those favorable characteristics. We’ll keep watching to see if this initiative becomes something of size to qualify Apple for our Scarce Resource investing theme.
Filings for Apple Energy list several assets, including a 130-megawatt solar farm near San Francisco, a 50-megawatt facility in Arizona, and another 19.9 megawatts in Nevada.
Rather than selling to the public, Apple is believed to be using Apple Energy simply to sell excess power to public utilities, helping to offset the cost of running its infrastructure. When and where possible, Apple uses solar as a primary source of “green” power for offices and datacenters.
Source: Apple Energy gets federal approval to sell power into wholesale markets