Friday Feb 5th in Oldsmar, a Florida city of about 15,000 a hacker accessed a remote computer and altered the amount of sodium hydroxide by a factor of 100. This was all over the news as a major risk to the Florida Water Supply. But the risk is not in adjusting sodium hydroxide. The risk is in a lack of computer security and the use obsolete operating system. The water treatment plant used windows 7 on all their computer systems with the firewall disabled. They used the remote software of team views with a shared password that all the staff used.
Christopher Krebs, the former head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, reportedly told a House of Representatives Homeland Security committee on Wednesday that the breach was “very likely” the work of “a disgruntled employee.”
City officials said residents were never in danger, because the change was quickly detected and reversed. Even if the change hadn’t been reversed, the officials said, treatment plant personnel have redundancies in place to catch dangerous conditions before water is delivered to homes and businesses.
The attack occurred around 1:30pm when an employee noticed the mouse moving on his computer using the remote software team viewer. The person that was accessing the computer changed the amount of lye added to the water. Whomever it was had knowledge of how to use the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems.
So far the FBI stated “The cyber actors likely accessed the system by exploiting cyber security weaknesses including poor password security, and an outdated Windows 7 operating system to compromise software used to remotely manage water treatment. the actor also likely used the desktop software Team Viewer to gain unauthorized access to the system.”
According to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. The public was never in peril, though the intruder took “the sodium hydroxide up to dangerous levels,” Also, plant safeguards would have detected the chemical alteration in the 24 hours to 36 hours it would have taken to affect the water supply, he said.