Hackers try to poison Florida town by changing chemical levels at water treatment plant

A water treatment plant in Florida was targeted by hackers who tried to poison a town’s water supply. An unidentified suspect managed to get through a computer security system for the plant that serves the city of Oldsmar, Florida, on Friday, and tampered with the amount of chemicals in the water supply.

They briefly increased the amount of sodium hydroxide from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million. Sodium hydroxide is used to treat the acidity levels in the water supply, but is also a component in things like soaps and drain cleaners. In high concentrations, it can cause irritation, burns and other complications. Luckily, the change in the chemical levels was spotted by a supervisor, who then managed to reverse the increase.

The town is around 15 miles northwest of Tampa which played host to the Super Bowl on Sunday night. Is 15,000 residents were not put at risk “At no time was there a significant adverse effect on the water being treated. Importantly, the public was never in danger” officials confirmed.

The remote access system has been disabled since the incident, with officials saying there were other safeguards in place to prevent the increased chemical levels from getting into the water. Nearby city leaders were told of the incident and advised to check their systems.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, a worker at the plant first noticed the unusual activity at around 8am on Friday after someone accessed the system. The hackers then took control at around 1.30pm and manipulated the software that controls the water treatment and increased the amount of sodium hydroxide, however the change was quickly spotted and reversed.

Investigators from the local county sheriff’s office, the FBI and the Secret Service said it is not yet clear where the attack came from.

Sky news, 9th February 2021