A hacker had accessed a water treatment plant in the San Francisco Bay Area in January and deleted programs that were used to treat drinking water, the US media reported. In the latest cyberattack to come to light on an American facility, the hacker used the username and password of a former employee to log into the system on January 15 and altered the settings. The security breach was detected the next day and the California facility changed the protocols and reinstalled the programs.
NBC reported that the hacker, whose name and motives are yet unknown, “tried to poison” the water of area that is close to the Silicon Valley, the global centre of high technology and software innovations. It cited a “private report” prepared by the regional intelligence centre in February. The report did not identify the facility.
Michael Sena, the Executive Director of the centre, confirmed the hacking incident but disputed the claim about an attempt to poison the facility, telling The San Francisco Chronicle, "No one tried to poison any of our water. That is not accurate."
The hacker reportedly used the former employee's TeamViewer account details to gain access to the water treatment plant's system. TeamViewer allows a person to access computers and other gadgets of another person remotely. The program has gained a lot of popularity and is widely used by employees working from home during the pandemic.
In February, a hacker tried to take over the control of another water treatment facility in Florida. In that incident too, the hacker had access to a TeamViewer account linked to the facility and managed to increase the levels of lye in the drinking water to poisonous levels. An employee caught the mouse of a computer moving on its own and stopped a disaster in the making.
The hacker had access to the system for about three to five minutes, local officials had said.