Penn Wealth Publishing

2021.03.21 Penn Wealth Report Vol 9 Issue 02

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 7 of 35

Copyright 2021. All Rights Reserved. 8 penn wealth Report voluMe 9 issue 02 21 Mar 2021 tactical Awareness When the global pandemic was unleashed on the world from a province in central China, seizing up global economies and killing 2.5 million people—thus far, it struck us how unprepared governments were for this biological event. It also struck us just how easy it would be for a nefarious actor with state-sponsored resources to inflict damage through more tactical strikes. America's utility infrastructure came to mind. Precisely seven years ago, in February of 2014, we reported on a California power grid attack which began with the 1 a.m. slicing of underground AT&T fiber-optic cables, and ended with the 2 a.m. assault rifle barrage on a bank of PG&E transformers. Seventeen transformers were knocked out, and in the morning law enforcement collected over 100 rounds of ammo. Simply a case of local vandals? Perhaps. But recall that the Twin Towers were first attacked in February of 1993, eight years before the 9/11 strike. Breach of the Oldsmar water plant by hackers. Two days before the Super Bowl in Tampa, the local suburb of Oldsmar had a breach at its water treatment facility. is time, it wasn't a physical attack like the one which occurred at the PG&E facility, but a cyber- attack. For good or bad, the individual systems which collectively comprise America's critical infrastructure are becoming increasingly controlled by computer systems. is means that adjustments to these systems may be made with ease, generally by one technician on a computer; it also means that these systems can be easily hacked. Around the start of his shift on Friday the 5th of February, an employee at the city's water treatment facility noticed his mouse cursor moving around on his computer screen. As the plant uses remote-access software, he wasn't too concerned; he assumed it was his supervisor monitoring the systems. A few hours later, however, the moving cursor was back—this time it was making actual adjustments to the level of chemi- cals entering the water supply. Sodium hydroxide is used in municipal water supplies, at a ratio of 100 parts per million (ppm) or so, to control acidity and help remove heavy metals from the water. is chemical is also known by a few other names, such as lye or caustic soda. In high con- centrations, this corrosive chemical damages human tissue. e technician at the Oldsmar plant watched as the mysterious stranger behind the cursor's move- ments began altering the water supply's sodium hydroxide levels to 11,100 ppm—over 100 times the correct amount. e chemical injections were quickly moved back to normal levels, and plant officials were fast to point out that testing safeguards would have detected the issue long before the water reached any taps, but the threat is alarming. An identified target of terrorists. Including the smaller districts, there are over 100,000 municipal water treatment facilities in the United States, each one vulnerable to attack. From a physical standpoint, a majority of the pipes which transport water to customers are between 50 and 75 years old and in need of repair. On the digital side, the threat of global hacks into local systems will only rise. The recent attack on a treatment facility near Super Bowl location was similar to Iranian attacks on Israeli facilities. Biosecurity reats Water purification plant filtration process. Image licensed by Penn Wealth Pub. e Growing reat to America's Water Supply

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Penn Wealth Publishing - 2021.03.21 Penn Wealth Report Vol 9 Issue 02