- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2021

A hacker breached a Florida water treatment plant and attempted to change the toxicity of drinking water before an operator at the plant intervened and prevented any damage, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

The hacker accessed the City of Oldsmar‘s system on Friday and changed the sodium hydroxide level in the water from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million, increasing the alkalinity of the water, according to local officials. Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, is an ingredient used in liquid drain cleaners and removes metal from drinking water in treatment plants.

“After the intruder increased the parts per million from 100 to 11,100, the intruder exited the system and the plant operator immediately reduced the level back to the appropriate amount of 100,” said Mr. Gualtieri at a press conference Monday.”Because the operator noticed the increase and lowered it right away, at no time was there a significant adverse effect upon the water being treated. Importantly, the public was never in danger.”

Mr. Gualteri said his team had leads but no suspects and was investigating alongside the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service. He said the investigators had not determined whether the hack originated from somewhere inside or outside the United States.

“This type of activity, this type of hacking of critical infrastructure is not just limited to water supply systems,” said Mr. Gualtieri on Monday. “It could be anything, it could be sewer systems, it could be a whole variety of things that could really be problematic.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, tweeted Monday evening that he was asking the FBI to provide all assistance necessary to Oldsmar and said it should be treated “as a matter of national security.”

Oldsmar is a town of approximately 15,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and is about 15 miles west of Tampa, Florida.

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