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Volume XI, Number 126

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City of Oldsmar, Florida Narrowly avoids 'Hot Water' in Remote Cyberattack on its Infrastructure

News reports have surfaced reporting that a hacker in the US gained access to the Oldsmar’s water treatment plant system in an attempt to release a corrosive chemical into the Oldsmar’s water supply.

According to reports the hacker who breached the system last week gained access through a vulnerability in the plant’s remote access system being used by workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The hacker very briefly increased the amount of sodium hydroxide (a chemical used to treat water acidity) by a factor of one hundred. Although it is not harmful in small quantities, this caustic chemical (commonly found in cleaning supplies such as drain cleaners) is toxic in larger volumes.

It has been reported that luckily, a vigilant supervisor working at the water treatment plant saw the hacker’s mouse move across the screen making changes to settings and was able to immediately revert the changes the intruder had made in the 3-5 minutes they were active.

The plant has since disabled its remote-access system and has reassured the public that there were other safeguards in place including manual monitoring that would have caught the changes within 24-36 hours before any increased level of the chemical in the water supply.

This security breach highlights the far more serious impacts that hackers can have when infiltrate weaknesses in utilities and other heavy asset industries.  It is essential that organisations pay close attention to their security measures to avoid getting into ‘hot water’.

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Copyright 2021 K & L GatesNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 49
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About this Author

Cameron Abbott, Technology, Attorney, Australia, corporate, KL Gates Law Firm
Partner

Mr. Abbott is a corporate lawyer who focuses on technology, telecommunications and broadcasting transactions. He assists corporations and vendors in managing their technology requirements and contracts, particularly large outsourcing and technology procurements issues including licensing terms for SAP and Oracle and major system integration transactions.

Mr. Abbott partners with his clients to ensure market leading solutions are implemented in to their businesses. He concentrates on managing and negotiating complex technology solutions, which...

+61.3.9640.4261
Rob Pulham Corporate Attorney K&L Gates
Special Counsel

Rob Pulham is an experienced corporate advisory and transactional lawyer with an active technology and privacy practice representing companies in the energy, manufacturing, mining, retail, health and financial services sectors, as well as government and not for profit organisations. He has extensive experience advising customers and vendors in the technology industry, with particular focus on software licensing, data privacy and protection, and systems integration projects. In his role as a senior corporate lawyer, Mr. Pulham reviews organisational policies and practices...

61-3-9640-4414
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