(ORDO NEWS) — It took the attackers several minutes to endanger the locals.
The plot of “Die Hard 4.0” almost became a reality in California, where hackers hacked into a sewage treatment plant in one of the cities.
Residents of Oldsmar, a city of 15,000 in the Tampa Bay area of California, nearly fell victim to a hacker attack on a local wastewater treatment plant in early February. The attackers gained access to the electronic system and increased the alkali content in the water, but the attack was quickly recognized and stopped.
According to The New York Times, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas County, access to the treatment plant was gained through remote computer programs. The employee who monitors the operation of the system first discovered a request for access and rejected it, and after almost 6 hours noticed that various programs were opening on his work computer independently. According to Reuters, the hackers gained access using the popular TeamViewer remote access program.
The invasion lasted from 3 to 5 minutes, but this time was enough for the hackers to raise the level of sodium hydroxide – the main component used to clean up sewers – 100 times, from a safe 100 ppm to 11,100 ppm. Such a concentration of alkali already poses a threat to human health, but the attack was detected in time and the ingress of a dangerous substance into the water supply system was prevented – representatives of the treatment facilities said that it would take 24 to 36 hours for water with an oversized sodium hydroxide content to enter the residents’ taps.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri noted that the hackers have not been found and it is not yet clear whether this attack was carried out from the United States or whether attackers from abroad participated in it, but specialists from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Secret Service were notified of the incident. Remote access to the system was disabled at Oldsmare’s wastewater treatment plants, and cybersecurity experts called for the safety of such programs, which are increasingly used in addition to plumbing systems on dams and oil and gas pipelines, due to the ability of engineers and contractors to monitor system parameters from remote workstations.
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