Florida water system hack – how vulnerable are we?
Bottom line: The recent hack of Oldsmar’s water treatment plant in Pinellas County, didn’t just catch the attention of local and state officials. It’s a national story raising the question about what if? As in what if an extremely attentive operator hadn’t immediately caught the hacker who raised the amount of lye to 100 times the safe level in water. Unchecked the problem would have been that serious. The level of lye would have turned the water supply into something resembling Drano. Yeah, the stuff that unclogs your sink. Now local officials said there are additional safeguards (which aren’t fully disclosed) that would have in theory prevented the unsafe water from leaving the plant. I’ll trust that is hopefully/likely the case but are we certain we don’t have a bigger program on our hands?
We learned the hacker used the same remote access program used by plant operators to access the system to change the settings. The first question which comes to mind is why we have remote access being offered to our water supply? That’s where I’d start this conversation. We’ve become accustomed to everything being connected to the internet and especially in the era of COVID – accessible remotely. Anyone see potential points of failure here? We treated water well before the internet. It’s not like it can’t be done. How would you feel if our nuclear arsenal could be remotely accessed? I’m not sure we should be handling the most essential resource we have any differently. So, how vulnerable are our water systems? That’s a good question. There are 151,000 nationally and over 6,500 in the state of Florida according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. While there are minimum standards applied by the federal government, Florida Department of Health and Florida Department of Environmental Protection but the operations themselves can vary greatly.
This is worthy of greater investigation. It’s clear the online threats to vital resources will only increase in the future. Having systems that are a) connected to the internet and b) can be accessed remotely inherently introduce potential points of failure. Points of failure that potentially the operators themselves hadn’t fully considered until now. Question is...what’s in your water?
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