Hacker Attempted To Corrupt San Francisco Drinking Water

A recent report came to light, revealing shocking details about how a hacker attempted to corrupt the drinking water in the San Francisco area earlier this year.

According to the news from the Nothern California Regional Intelligence Center, the hacker acquired the TeamViewer credentials of a former employee; the hacker then proceeded to log on and remove programs that treat drinking water. The hack happened on January 15, which was immediately discovered the next day, preventing malfunctions. 

Tampering with water treatment programs could expose residents to things like E. Coli

According to Rod Colon, district manager of North Springs Improvement District in Florida, tampering with the treatment programs risk residents’ health; it could make them sick, due to the presence of things like E. coli in the water. 

Previously, a hacker attained remote access to the water treatment facility in February and tried to contaminate the water with sodium hydroxide.

The changes that the hacker made were immediately reversed by a worker at the plant, which saved the water from getting contaminated. Said incident happened during the same weekend that the Super Bowl was held in Tampa, Florida.

Colon added that the water treatment plants received a notification of the possible attempts to hack their systems ever since 9/11. After receiving the threat, the Department of Homeland Security checked every water treatment facility. They also issued recommendations to upgrade the infrastructure. 

Colon: Water treatment facilities working towards set of goals issued by DHS

Colon clarified that each water treatment facility monitored by the EPA conducted the audit. Although the report is confidential, every water supplier is working towards the set of goals issued by DHS, based on the reports. 

However, Colon mentioned that some cities did not invest in the same upgrades recommended by the DHS. He explained that the goal set by the DHS for water treatment facilities was that they should not be accessed remotely. Adjustments to the water treatment plant should only be possible if you are physically present on-site and when you personally log in to the system. 

Colon also added that each incident he encountered had the same scenario. Someone accessed a username and password; someone was able to access these credentials from different parts of the world. 

Other than the water treatment plants, Colon also noted that potential vulnerabilities can happen along with points of distribution before it reaches households.  

In the wake of several hacking incidents that magnified vulnerabilities, the White House focused on protecting the critical infrastructure of the U.S. from hacks. 

Recently, a major fuel supplier distributor, Colonial Pipeline, was attacked with a ransomware attack last May. This forced the company to shut down its operation for almost a week. The temporary stoppage of operations caused regional shortages and made the prices of the fuel skyrocket. 

To regain access to the system, the company paid over $4 million ransom. A big amount of this ransom was then later on recovered by federal investigators. 

Then a few weeks later, another cyber attack happened. This time, it targeted the operations of the world’s largest meat supplier, JBS.