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“Dangerous Levels” Computer Hacker Alters Chemicals in One Florida City’s Water System

OLDSMAR, Fla. – On Monday, February 8, 2021, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri gave a press conference surrounding the unlawful intrusion to the City of Oldsmar’s water treatment system.

He was joined by Mayor Eric Seidel and City Manager Al Braithwaite.

A hacker gained access to Oldsmar’s water treatment plant, adjusting the sodium hydroxide in the water to a “dangerous” level, according to Gualtieri.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Pinellas County deputies, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, are investigating the breach as it is unclear if it came from within the U.S. or from a foreign actor.

The Sheriff said that an operated noticed that someone had remotely entered the computer system on Friday Feb. 5th. The system controls the chemicals and operations on the water treatment plant.

According to the sheriff, the hacker spent up to five minutes in the system and adjusted the amount of sodium hydroxide in the water from 100 parts per million to 11,100.

“This is obviously a significant and potentially dangerous increase. Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, is the main ingredient in liquid drain cleaners,” Gualtieri said.

The operator working that morning immedietly adjusted the levels back to the normal range and said that at no time was the public in danger.

“The important thing is to put everyone on notice and I think that’s really the purpose of today is to make sure that everyone realizes that these bad actors are out there,” Mayor Eric Seidel said.

The Sheriff did ask all area government entities to take a critical look at their infrastructure to ensure their security practices up to standard.


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