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Cyberterrorism? Criminal invades water treatment plant and tries to poison the population


Cybersecurity of critical infrastructure is something, well … Very critical. And the most recent proof of this is the fact that, in Florida (USA), a cybercriminal broke into the water treatment systems in the city of Oldsmar and dramatically increased sodium hydroxide levels (NaOH), also known as caustic soda. Yes – it seems that the objective was to poison the local population.

Sodium hydroxide is commonly used in low concentrations (100 parts per million), but the attacker, after the invasion, increased that amount to 11,100 parts per million – level at which the chemical reagent becomes toxic and it can produce burns, scars and blindness. Everything indicates that the attacker took advantage of a poorly configured TeamViewer server to perform the maneuver.

Fortunately, this time, no one was harmed. According to Bob Gualtieri, sheriff of Pinellas County, an operator was able to identify malicious manipulation in real time and restore NaOH concentration levels in time to avoid a tragedy. “At no time has there been a significant effect on treated water and, more importantly, the public has never been in danger,” said Bob.

The invasion took place on February 5 (last Friday), with the first access – possibly for reconnaissance purposes – lasted “between 3 to 5 minutes”. Then, remote access occurred between 8:00 am and 1:50 pm local time. “At 1:30 pm, a plant operator witnessed a second remote access user opening several functions in the system that control the amount of sodium hydroxide in the water,” confirms the sheriff.

Obviously, the very serious case is already under investigation, and it is impossible to say right now if the attacker worked locally or if we are talking about a malicious foreign actor. This is yet another case that exposes vulnerabilities in industrial control systems and critical infrastructures, which, if exploited, can symbolize serious threats to the population’s health.

Source: HackerRead

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