Incident in Florida: Hackers manipulate US drinking water system

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Incident in Florida
Hackers manipulate US drinking water system

In the US state of Florida, hackers access a water treatment plant. The cyberattack is exposed before the criminals can spoil the drinking water. Now the FBI and the Secret Service are supposed to investigate the case.

Hackers have gained access to a water treatment plant in the US state of Florida and chemically manipulated the water. However, the cyberattack was detected and blocked in time, said Pinellas District Sheriff Bon Gualtieri. “At no time was there a significant negative impact on the treated water,” assured the sheriff. The people in Oldsmar near Tampa, who are supplied with water from the plant, have never been in danger.

An IT specialist from the waterworks reportedly noticed the hacker attack on Friday. The control systems of the water treatment plant were manipulated from a distance. The perpetrator or perpetrators would have more than a hundredfold the proportion of sodium hydroxide in the water, which could be prevented, as Gualtieri said.

Also known as caustic soda, sodium hydroxide is used to control the acidity of water and to remove metals from drinking water in a water treatment plant, Gualtieri said. Even if the change had not been noticed immediately, it would have taken between 24 and 36 hours for the treated water to get into the supply system. Before that, however, safety mechanisms in the water network would have triggered an alarm due to the change in chemical composition.

The local police reportedly asked the Federal Police FBI and the National Security Service Secret Service for help in the investigation. There is still no specific suspect, said Gualtieri. It is also unclear whether the cyber attack originated at home or abroad.

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