We have been following hacker attacks on people and organizations, almost always with the objective of obtaining money, through fraud or extortion.
Very recently, an attack of a different nature took place, a real terrorist attack: the FBI is investigating an attempt to poison the water supplied to the inhabitants of the city of Oldsmar, Florida.
Practically by chance, an employee at the city’s water treatment plant realized that someone had taken control of a plant at the plant and entered the software that controls the addition of chemicals to the water being treated; the computer received commands from the hacker that increased the concentration of sodium hydroxide from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million.
Caustic soda in the water?
The chemical, also known as caustic soda, is used in small amounts to regulate the acidity of water, but in larger doses it can cause serious damage to health. Upon realizing what was happening, the employee who noticed the change immediately reverted the product’s concentration to normal levels.
According to local authorities, even if the employee’s intervention had not taken place, other control points would detect the problem, preventing people’s health from being affected.
It may be true that the attack would be stopped, but the fact should draw society’s attention to the danger of similar attacks. Air traffic control, autonomous vehicles and other services that are based on computer systems, may become the next victims of these attacks, remembering that the goal of terrorists is to cause the greatest possible damage, without worrying about who will be the victims.
The FBI and local authorities have yet to make any arrests, although they claim to have several leads. At the moment, it is not clear whether the invasion originated abroad, as the attack that has been called the “SolarWinds hack” is said to have originated in Russia, which affected more than 18,000 organizations in the public and private sectors, from which files, content were stolen mailboxes and personal data. Aware of the gravity of the issue, the Biden government has devoted about $ 10 billion to improving US cybersecurity.
It should also be a matter of concern that when terrorist actions become common, they are usually combated through extremely harsh measures, which affect the population as a whole and often target innocents.