Hacker tries to poison Florida city's water system: 5 details 

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An Oldsmar, Fla.-based water-treatment plant was hacked Feb. 5 by an unauthorized user who tried to change the level of treatment chemicals in the city's water system to a dangerous level, according to The Wall Street Journal

Five details: 

1. A plant operator noticed that someone had remotely accessed a computer system he was monitoring the morning of Feb. 5; the system controls chemicals used to treat water and has a software program that lets users access it remotely. 

2. The first intrusion was brief, and didn't alarm the operator because his supervisor and others remotely access his computer screen for monitoring, according to the report. However, later that  afternoon someone entered the system remotely again and the operator saw the actor open various software functions that control the water being treated in the system. 

3. The hacker opened the software function that regulates the level of sodium hydroxide, or lye, which is the main ingredient in drain cleaners and is used to control water acidity. The hacker then increased the amount of lye from about 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million. 

4. The increase in lye is "significant and potentially dangerous," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualiteri said at a Feb. 8 news conference, according to the report. The sheriff's office, FBI and U.S. Secret Service are all investigating the hack. 

5. While the plant operator immediately reversed the dangerous alteration, the breach highlights the exposure of utilities to cyberattacks and consequent public health effects they can have. 

"Water systems, like other public utility systems, are part of the nation's critical infrastructure and can be vulnerable targets when someone desires to adversely affect public safety," Mr. Gualtieri said. 

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