A water plant at Oldsmar, a small town in Florida, suffered a cyber attack last Friday as hackers attempted to take control of its operations and poison the town’s water supply.
On Monday 8th February, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri held a press conference to address the intrusion into the city’s water treatment plant system.
He said: “On Friday 5th February, there was an unlawful intrusion into the City of Oldsmar computer system at its water treatment plant.
“On Friday morning at 8.00 am a plant operator at Oldsman water treatment facility noticed that someone remotely accessed the computer system that he was monitoring. This computer system controls the chemicals and other operations of the water treatment plant.
“The remote access was brief and the operator didn’t think much of it because his supervisor and others would remotely access his computer screen to monitor the system at various times.
“At about 13.30 pm someone again remotely accessed the computer system and it showed up on the operator screen with the mouse being moved to open various software functions that control the water being treated in the system. The person remotely accessed the system for about three to five minutes opening various functions on the screen.
“One of the functions opened by the person hacking into the system was one that controls the amount of sodium hydroxide in the water. The hacker changed the sodium hydroxide from about 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million.
“This is obviously a significant and potentially dangerous increase.”
Sodium hydroxide, is the main ingredient in liquid drain cleaners. It is also used to control water acidity and remove metals from drinking water in the water treatment plants.
The sheriff added: “the intruder exited the system and the plant operator immediately reduced the level back to the appropriate amount of 100.
“Because the operator noticed the increase and lowered it right away at no time was there a significant adverse effect on the water being treated. Importantly the public was never in danger.”
It is believed the FBI is investigating the incident.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio said: “The recent cyber attack on a Florida water treatment plant should be a wake-up call about the growing threat posed to our nations critical infrastructure by cyber criminals and/or malign foreign actors.”
The recent cyber attack on a #Florida water treatment plant should be a wake up call about the growing threat posed to our nations critical infrastructure by cyber criminals &/or malign foreign actors
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 10, 2021