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Water Cyber Hacks

Autor:   •  November 30, 2018  •  Essay  •  548 Words (3 Pages)  •  101 Views

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The first notable incident in the water sector took place in 1994, when a hacker using a dial-up modem gained access to the computer network of the Salt River Project in Arizona. The intrusion involved at least a 5-hour session where the hacker had access to water and power monitoring data. Τhe perpetrator was a hacker who believed he had the right to pursue his intellectual freedom through his hacking activities.

It was another 6 years before a confirmed incident clearly involving malicious intent occurred. It is known today as the Maroochy attack, named after the area in Queensland, Australia where it occurred. In the spring of 2000, a former employee of an Australian organization that develops manufacturing software applied for a job with the local government, but was rejected. Over a 2-month period, this individual reportedly used a radio transmitter on as many as 46 occasions to remotely break into the controls of a treatment system. He altered electronic data for particular pumping stations and caused malfunctions in their operations, releasing about 800.000 Liters of raw sewage into nearby rivers and parks.

Often however there is no malicious intent behind some failures. In December 2005 for example, the Taum Sauk Water Storage Dam, approximately 100 miles south of St. Louis, Missouri, suffered a catastrophic failure, releasing a billion gallons of water. According to the dam’s operator, the incident may have occurred because gauges at the dam read differently than the gauges at the dam’s remote monitoring station.

This was followed by two incidents that involved unauthorized access. In 2006, a hacker connecting from outside the United States was reported to have intruded into the network of a water plant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The attack involved the installation of malware that could, but didn’t affect the plant’s operations.

The next year, a former electrical supervisor of a small canal system in California was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having installed software on a SCADA system, causing water to be diverted from the Sacramento River. He was reported to have carried out the attack on the day he was dismissed after 17 years of employment.

The 2011 failure of a water plant in Springfield, Illinois was widely reported as the first foreign cyberattack on a public utility in the United States. Later however it was shown to be a normal failure of a pump that had malfunctioned several times in the past. Suspicions had been raised because of a user who had connected to the network from a Russian IP address. After investigation, the user proved to be a contractor who had accessed the network remotely, while in Russia on business.


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