According to authorities, a hacker gained access to the panel that remotely controls the water treatment system in the City of Oldsmar and attempted to increase the chemicals in the water to a dangerous level.
“The hacker changed the sodium hydroxide from about one hundred parts per million, to 11,100 parts per million,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a press conference, explaining that the chemical increase would have meant the level of sodium hydorxide in the water reached a level that would be dangerous for human consumption.
“What it is is someone hacked into the system not just once but twice … opened the program and changed the levels from 100 to 11,100 parts per million with a caustic substance. So, you label it however you want, those are the facts.”
Mr Gualiteri said it was a significant and potentially dangerous increase of sodium hydroxide, the main ingredient in drain cleaners. It is also used to control acidity and remove metals from drinking water.
Oldsmar has its own well fields require its own plant to treat the water with chemicals to make it suitable for public consumption.
Police said the hack occurred on Friday, 5 February at about 8am when a hacker remotely accessed a computer system that controls the chemicals and other operations at the facility.
“The remote access… was brief and the operator didn’t think much of it because his supervisor and others would remotely access his computer screen to monitor the system at various times,” Mr Gualtieri said.
The hacker accessed the system again at 1.30pm for about three to five minutes during which they changed the chemical levels in the water treatment plant.