Unknown hackers successfully breached the computer system running the treatment plant for Oldsmar, Florida and briefly changed the additive levels in an apparent attempt to poison the water supply.
According to a news report from Reuters, the breach occurred on Friday and the hackers were able to remotely take control of the plant’s software program and began the process of massively increasing the amount of sodium hydroxide — commonly known as lye — into the water for the city’s 15,000 residents.
The breach was recognized almost immediately, however, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, in an interview with Reuters
“The guy was sitting there monitoring the computer as he’s supposed to and all of a sudden he sees a window pop up that the computer has been accessed,” Gualtieri said. “The next thing you know someone is dragging the mouse and clicking around and opening programs and manipulating the system.”
The hackers then increased the amount of sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, being distributed into the water supply. The chemical is typically used in small amounts to control the acidity of water, but at higher levels is dangerous to consume.
Only a small amount of additional lye ended up in the town’s water supply before the breach was shut down — and the city reassured the public that it had other controls to safeguard the water.
Likewise, in a press conference describing the hack, Gualtieri noted that it would’ve taken between 24 to 36 hours before the contaminated water would’ve been released into the supply for the city’s residents.
You can watch video below of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office addressing the breach in a press conference:
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