An unidentified hacker hacked into a water supply system in a Florida city and briefly increased the level of a potentially dangerous additive by 100 times.
This was reported by local law enforcement agencies.
The break-in was promptly identified and immediately dealt with, so that no residents of Oldsmare, a suburb of Tampa, were in danger, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
However, the attack demonstrated the threat posed by cyberattacks to American infrastructure, the sheriff added.
An Oldsmare water treatment system operator noticed on Friday that someone was gaining remote access to the control system, Gualtieri said.
The operator watched the mouse pointer select various functions for several minutes before opening the panel that controls the addition of sodium hydroxide to the water.
Also known as alkali and used to clean drainpipes, this chemical is added to water in very small amounts to regulate acidity and remove metals before the water reaches consumers.
But the hacker raised the level from 100 milligrams per liter to 11,100 milligrams, that is, 100 times the norm, and then logged out, Gualtieri said.
“This is obviously a significant and potentially dangerous increase,” he told a news conference. “Fortunately, it was discovered immediately.”