Employee PC hacked via TeamViewer in attempted water supply poisoning

Unknown hackers tried to poison the water supply that could have harmed thousands of residents in Oldsmar, Tampa, Florida.

Unknown hackers tried to poison the water supply that could have harmed thousands of residents in Oldsmar, Tampa, Florida.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri revealed that unidentified hackers breached a water treatment facility’s computer system. The public utility provides water to thousands of residents in Oldsmar, Tampa, Florida.

Hackers tried to increase the level of an additive to dangerously high levels. However, the attempt was thwarted by the facility’s in-house IT team.

Hackers Exploited TeamViewer to Gain System Access

Reportedly, on Friday around 8:00 am and then on 1:00 pm, hackers remotely accessed the TeamViewer software on the computer of an employee of the facility while performing routine monitoring of the computer system.

Tweet from Reuters reporter:

https://twitter.com/Bing_Chris/status/1358895250723471363

During the second attempt, the employee got alerted as a window popped up, revealing that someone was controlling the computer.

 “The next thing you know someone is dragging the mouse and clicking around and opening programs and manipulating the system,” Gualtieri said. “The amount of sodium hydroxide that got in was minimal and was reversed quickly,” Gualtieri confirmed.

The employee informed the company, after which they contacted the police. The water treatment facility reversed the command quickly, due to which the impact of this breach was minimal.

15,000 residents could have been Poisoned

Around 15,000 residents of Oldsmar could have been poisoned by drinking contaminated water if authorities hadn’t responded timely. The hackers increased the amount of Lye (sodium hydroxide) distributed into the water supply from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million.

The employee quickly reverted this amount back to 100 parts per million. Lye is usually added in small amounts to control water’s acidity. However, higher levels can be life-threatening. 

In a press conference on Monday, Oldsmar Mayor Eric Seidel stated that the facility had already implemented control measures that would have prevented water from being contaminated.

The FBI is assisting in the investigation to identify who’s behind this attack.

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