Florida residents had a lucky escape after water treatment plant operators prevented dangerous levels of lye from being added to the local water supply by a hacker that penetrated the computer systems of the City of Oldsmar’s water treatment facility.
NBC News reports that a hacker managed to gain access to the water treatment plant of Oldsmar, Florida, and attempted to increase the amount of lye in the water to extremely dangerous levels. Plant operators quickly noticed the issue and fixed the systems before anyone was put in danger.
In a news conference this week, Pinnella County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri stated that on Friday morning a hacker gained access to a program intended to allow water treatment operators in Oldsmar to troubleshoot problems with the treatment systems. The program gives authorized users full remote access to the plant.
It is believed that the hacker made no changes during the first breach but the system was breached once again late on Friday afternoon. During this attack, the hacker took control of the computer and changed the acceptable level of sodium hydroxide — or lye, the main ingredient in most drain cleaners — from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million.
Luckily, a water plant operator noticed the issue immediately and corrected the issue, according to Gualtieri. He added that if the operators had not noticed the issue and trigger the plant’s alarms, the lye could have seeped into the water supply in 24 to 36 hours.
Gualtieri stated: “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.”
Gualtieri stated that currently there are no leads on where the hacker was operating from but the Sheriff’s Department is working with the FBI and Secret Service to find out.
Oldsmar City Manager Al Braithwaite stated that the system that the hacker used to gain access to the water treatment plant has been disabled and the city plans to find a replacement.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address firstname.lastname@example.org