Cybersecurity expert believes Oldsmar water supply breach should be ‘wake up call’ for other cities

Pinellas County

OLDSMAR, Fla. (WFLA) – A hacker was able to successfully alter the levels of chemicals in Oldsmar’s water supply to ‘potentially damaging’ levels Friday, officials said.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said on Friday morning a plant operator at Oldsmar’s water treatment facility noticed someone remotely accessed the computer system he was monitoring.

Dr. Ron Sanders calls what happened at the Oldsmar Water Plant extremely concerning.

“I will tell you that is the soft underbelly of so many of our local government systems,” said Dr. Sanders. “First, they are protecting parts of our critical infrastructure, and second, they are accessible not only by other employees in the city or county, but by contractors and in some cases even citizens.” “

Sanders is the Staff Director at Cyber Florida at the University of South Florida. He explains, hackers are evolving every day and the equipment they use isn’t hard to acquire.

“You can buy cyber-attack tools on the dark web,” said Dr. Sanders. “Cybercriminals have access to those tools, they can buy them on the dark web and it no longer takes an evil genius to do this.”

8 On Your Side reached out to a number of municipalities. Those that replied said that they do have measures in place to prevent such a cyber attack. The City of Clearwater issued a statement saying.

“We are aware of and familiar with the case in Oldsmar. We will not be discussing the safety and security measures around our water supply at this time.”

Dr. Sanders believes this breach should be a wake-up call for other cities and counties to check and make sure their systems are secure.

“This is something that shouldn’t be understated or underplayed,” said Dr. Sanders. “I’ve done a lot of work with the state’s local governments. And they are really on the defensive when it comes to cybersecurity.”

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