Before there was a refrigerator that could tell you when you were out of milk or a baby monitor that you could listen to from around the world, critical infrastructure like water, power and electric was using Internet of Things technology to give you safe water and make sure the lights stayed on.
Except now, just like hackers want into your bank account, they are trying to hack that critical infrastructure.
For a Florida city, hackers came very close to poisoning the city’s water supply.
Luckily, water plant workers in Oldsmar, Florida, near Tampa, detected that an unauthorized person was remotely logged in. That would have been bad enough.
What is worse is that this person had attempted to change the amount of the chemical sodium hydroxide (also known as lye) from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million.
If they had not detected this, there likely would be a lot of dead people.
The city of course is trying to downplay the situation, but it sounds like the attacker came very close to getting away with it.
You have to understand the lifecycle of this type of equipment and the financial pressure that utilities are under. Some of the equipment is 20, 30 even 40 years old. Needless to say, that old equipment doesn’t have the security features of today’s equipment.
In this case an employee was watching the screen and saw what the attacker did and was able to reverse it. What if the employee was doing something else at the moment?
Unfortunately, many of these utilities don’t have the money to fix the problem. However, if hackers manage to kill people, these same utilities will find the money.
When I was growing up there were a lot of accidents on the corner where I lived. We kept asking the city to install a traffic light but they had all sorts of excuses why they didn’t want to do it ($$$$$$$$). Then someone died on my front lawn. Amazingly, there was no longer any problem with installing a traffic light. Unfortunately, that seems to be the way it works in America. I hope I am not that victim. Credit: SC Magazine