Hacker remotely increased Sodium Hydroxide levels in Florida water supply

On Friday 5th February 2021 A hacker gained access into the water treatment system of Oldsmar, Florida, and tried to increase the levels of sodium hydroxide, commonly referred to as lye, in the city’s water supply, putting thousands of people at risk of being poisoned.

The incident took place when an operator noticed the intrusion and watched the hacker access the system remotely. The hacker adjusted the level of sodium hydroxide to more than 100 times its normal levels, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

The water station operator immediately reduced the level back. At no time was there a significant adverse effect to the city’s water supply, and the public was never in danger, Gualtieri said. It is unknown if the breach happened from someone locally, nationally or even outside of the United States.

The remote attacker reportedly used TeamViewer, a legitimate application used for remote access, to take control of the system.

Gualtieri said it would have taken 24-36 hours for the water to reach the system and that there are several redundancies in place that would have alerted that the levels were too high before that happened. The city has taken steps to prevent further access into the system.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, FBI and Secret Service are jointly investigating the breach.

Duncan Newell

Duncan is a technology professional with over 20 years experience of working in various IT roles. He has a interest in cyber security, and has a wide range of other skills in radio, electronics and telecommunications.

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