The prosecution in Kansas, USA, has issued an indictment against a 22-year-old man after he at the end of March 2019 managed to log in to the management system of a local waterworks, and tamper with operating functions that could lead to the quality of drinking water from the waterworks was degraded.
The facility that was hacked, the Ellsworth County Rural Waterdistrict number 1 waterworks, is a small waterworks that serves more than 1,500 households. After the hacker had entered the control system, he turned off functions that ensure the purification and disinfection of drinking water.
The indictment does not say anything about how quickly the hacking was discovered, and whether the drinking water was affected. But the prosecution claims that the goal of the hacking was to do damage.
A clear message
The prosecution makes it clear that they take this case very seriously, and is prepared to use it to set an example.
In a statement, Special Agent Lance Ehrig of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), which has investigated the case with the FBI, says that the hacker has endangered the safety and health of an entire community.
“This indictment sends a clear message that anyone who breaks the laws that will prevent our drinking water systems from being damaged will be prosecuted,” Ehrig states.
The indictment does not reveal how the accused 22-year-old managed to get into the management system. But it is stated that he is a former employee at the waterworks. He had worked there for about a year, before leaving in January 2019.
One of his tasks had been to log in to the control system remotely to monitor the operation of the waterworks outside normal office hours.
Risks 25 years in prison
If the 22-year-old is convicted of everything he is accused of, he risks up to 25 years in prison. The charge of tampering with a public waterworks is by far the most serious, with a sentence of 20 years, while the charge of breaking into and damaging a computer system he did not have legal access to can result in five years in prison. In addition, he risks having to pay $ 250,000 in fines for each of the charges.
This indictment comes seven weeks after the control system at a waterworks at Oldsmar in Florida was hacked in a similar way (for subscribers).
At that time, a hacker managed to increase the amount of lye that was to be added to the drinking water from 100 to 11,100 parts per million. If it had not been discovered immediately, it could have led to the drinking water of 15,000 people being poisoned.
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