Hacker Unsuccessfully Attempts Poisoning One Of Florida City’s Water Supplies

Nikki Attkisson | Last Updated : February 9, 2021

A hacker failed in his attempt to fill in Florida city’s water treatment plant with a potentially harmful chemical on Friday, according to the officials.

The hacker targeted the city of Oldsmar’s water treatment facility where he made an unauthorized entry into the remotely accessed software system that was shared by the water supply workers.

Hacker Unsuccessfully Attempts Poisoning One Of Florida City’s Water Supplies

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said on Monday that the suspect is unknown and he managed to briefly increase the amount of sodium hydroxide to 11,100 parts per million. He added that it is obviously and potentially a dangerous increase. 

Hacker Unsuccessfully Attempts Poisoning One Of Florida City’s Water Supplies

The chemical sodium hydroxide aka lye is used to treat the acidity of water. It is also commonly contained in cleaning supplies.

This chemical is also greatly used in water treatment plants to remove metals from drinking water. If used in larger quantities, it can cause complications like irritation and burns.

Gualtieri also announced on Monday that to investigate the cyberattack, the FBI and other agencies are starting to work along with the local law enforcement.

The city of Oldsmar consists of around 15,000 residents which are located northeast of Tampa. On Sunday the city hosted the Super Bowl. 

The intention of the hacker is unknown and the authorities are to figure out whether it has any connections with the event.

The operator of the water supply could immediately notice the intrusion. He could see the movement of the cursor around on the computer screen of the system.

The operator managed to reverse every change that the hacker made on time as it was about to affect the infrastructure of the water treatment plant.  

According to Gualtieri, the public was safe from danger and it could bring a significant adverse effect on the water that is being treated.

He further said that it would have taken at least 24 hours for the water to hit the water supply system, even though the plant operator could immediately reverse the increased amount of the chemical. The redundancies are also in place to check the quality of the water before it gets reached to the public.

The mayor of Oldsmar, Eric Seidel said that it is important for everyone to be on notice. The purpose is to ensure that everyone realizes the significance of a hard look at what we have in place.

Sheriff Gualtieri said that no one is suspected in the hack. However, his office and the federal authorities are working together to follow the leads in the case. They are conjoined also to figure out the origin of the hack and why the hacker chose the acuity of Oldsmar.

The FBI officials said that FBI Tampa is working with the city and the County Sheriff to offer resources and provide assistance in the investigations. 

Nikki Attkisson

With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.

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