When we think of “terrorists”, at least in the modern sense, we might picture suicide bombers, vehicle attacks, and anonymous anthrax senders using the USPS as their delivery system.
And, besides 9/11, we don’t often think of “terrorism” on a scale of killing thousands. Often, these days, the casualties number in the dozens, or perhaps the hundreds in isolated and rare attacks.
But, over the weekend, the City of Tampa was nearly hit with the sort of terrorism that you’d expect from a comic book villain in a superhero movie.
Police say an attempt to contaminate a Florida city’s water supply with sodium hydroxide has failed despite a hacker gaining remote access to the local water treatment plant’s computer system.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a news conference on Monday that a plant worker at the city of Oldsmar’s water treatment facility first noticed unusual activity with its computer system at 8 a.m. on Friday, when a hacker briefly access the system.
At about 1:30 p.m., a hacker accessed the system again, taking control of the mouse and directING it to the software that controls water treatment. The hacker then briefly increased the amount of sodium hydroxide from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million.
Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, is the main ingredient in liquid drain cleaners. It also is used to control water acidity and remove metals from drinking water at treatment plants.
After the hacker exited the system, a worker at the plant was able to intervene and reverse the change.
Luckily, a very observant local operator who was monitoring the system noticed the change and was able to correct the mix before anyone was made sick.
At this time, there is no suspect in this mysterious case, and authorities can not even pinpoint the origin of the hack.
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