Breached water plant employees used the same TeamViewer password and no firewall

Stock photo of a water main cover.

The Florida water remedy facility whose laptop device skilled a probably hazardous laptop breach remaining week used an unsupported model of Home windows without a firewall and shared the similar TeamViewer password amongst its staff, executive officers have reported.

The pc intrusion came about remaining Friday in Oldsmar, a Florida town of about 15,000 that’s more or less 15 miles northwest of Tampa. After gaining far off get right of entry to to a pc that managed apparatus within the Oldsmar water remedy plant, the unknown intruder larger the volume of sodium hydroxide—a caustic chemical higher referred to as lye—by way of an element of 100. The tampering may have led to critical illness or demise had it no longer been for safeguards the town has in position.

Watch out for lax safety

Consistent with an advisory from the state of Massachusetts, staff with the Oldsmar facility used a pc operating Home windows 7 to remotely get right of entry to plant controls referred to as a SCADA—brief for “supervisory keep watch over and information acquisition”—device. What’s extra, the pc had no firewall put in and used a password that used to be shared amongst staff for remotely logging in to town techniques with the TeamViewer utility.

Massachusetts officers wrote:

The unidentified actors accessed the water remedy plant’s SCADA controls by way of far off get right of entry to device, TeamViewer, which used to be put in on one in every of a number of computer systems the water remedy plant workforce used to behavior device standing exams and to reply to alarms or some other problems that arose all through the water remedy procedure. All computer systems utilized by water plant workforce have been hooked up to the SCADA device and used the 32-bit model of the Home windows 7 working device. Additional, all computer systems shared the similar password for far off get right of entry to and seemed to be hooked up without delay to the Web with none form of firewall coverage put in.

A personal business notification revealed by way of the FBI supplied a equivalent evaluate. It mentioned:

The cyber actors most likely accessed the device by way of exploiting cyber safety weaknesses together with deficient password safety, and an out of date Home windows 7 working device to compromise device used to remotely set up water remedy. The actor additionally most likely used the desktop sharing device TeamViewer to realize unauthorized get right of entry to to the device.


Staff in Oldsmar’s water remedy division and town supervisor’s administrative center didn’t right away reply to telephone messages searching for remark for this publish.

Sins and omissions

The revelations illustrate the loss of safety rigor discovered inside of many crucial infrastructure environments. In January, Microsoft ended beef up for Home windows 7, a transfer that ended safety updates for the working device. Home windows 7 additionally supplies fewer safety protections than Home windows 10. The loss of a firewall and a password that used to be the similar for every worker also are indicators that the dep.’s safety routine wasn’t as tight as it would were.

The breach came about round 1:30pm, when an worker watched the mouse on his town laptop shifting by itself as an unknown celebration remotely accessed an interface that managed the water remedy procedure. The individual at the different finish modified the volume of lye added to the water from about 100 portions in line with million to 11,100ppm. Lye is utilized in small quantities to regulate consuming water alkalinity and take away metals and different contaminants. In better doses, the chemical is a well being danger.

Christopher Krebs, the previous head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Safety Company, reportedly told a Area of Representatives Fatherland Safety committee on Wednesday that the breach used to be “very most likely” the paintings of “a disgruntled worker.”

Town officers mentioned citizens have been by no means in peril, since the alternate used to be temporarily detected and reversed. Even supposing the alternate hadn’t been reversed, the officers mentioned, remedy plant workforce have redundancies in position to catch bad prerequisites ahead of water is brought to houses and companies.

The shared TeamViewer password used to be reported previous by way of the Related Press.


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