Hackers have broke into the computers of a water treatment facility for about 15,000 people close to Tampa, Florida and tried to add dangerous levels of one compound to the water, the Sherrif for the Pinellas County said on Monday.
The attempt last Friday was stopped. The hackers gained remote access through a program called TeamViewer, which was on the computer of an employee of the facility to allow for remote access, Sheriff Gualtieri said.
“The employee was on his computer and suddenly he sees a window warning that the computer had been accessed,” Gualtieri stated. “Then someone is dragging the mouse and opening programs and changing the system.”
The hackers then brought up the amount of sodium hydroxide (lye) being put into the water. The compound is usually used in smaller amounts to manage acidity, but at higher levels is dangerous.
The employee alerted his boss, who called the sheriff. The facility was quick to reverse the problem, leading to minimal impact.
Mayor Eric Seidel said during a conference on Monday that the water facility had many controls in place that would have stopped the incident from getting into the water supply.
“The amount that got in was small and was quickly reversed,” Gualtieri told reporters. The water facility is a city-owned utility which has its own IT team. Oldsmar is around 17 miles northwest of Tampa and has 15,000 citizens.
The FBI along with the Secret Service have been called in to aid in the investigation. Gualtieri says it is not known who is behind the attack.
“The important thing is for this to be a wake-up call,” he said.