Did Hackers Really Try to Poison Tampa’s Drinking Water Ahead of Super Bowl LV

The internet is abuzz with news that hackers broke into a Tampa Bay area water supply ahead of Super Bowl LV with the intention to poison the drinking water in the city and surrounding area.

The claim:

Computer hackers broke into the network at the Oldsmar, Florida water treatment plant in order to poison the drinking water in Tampa ahead of Super Bowl LV

Is it fake news?

Yes, there was a computer network breach at the Oldsmar water treatment facility and local law enforcement and the FBI are investigating how and who.

Detectives assigned to the Digital Forensics Unit are investigating an unlawful computer software intrusion at the City of Oldsmar’s water treatment plant. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office was notified of the intrusion on Friday, February 5, 2021. The intrusion targeted the City of Oldsmar’s computer system at its water treatment plant.

Below is a statement issued by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department:

Detectives assigned to the Digital Forensics Unit are investigating an unlawful computer software intrusion at the City of Oldsmar’s water treatment plant.

On Friday, February 5, 2021, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office was notified by the City of Oldsmar that their computer system had been remotely accessed at 8:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. by an unknown suspect.

According to detectives, the City of Oldsmar’s computer system at the water treatment plant allows for remote access by authorized users to troubleshoot any system problems from other locations.

The initial intrusion at 8:00 a.m. was brief and not cause for concern due to supervisors regularly accessing the system remotely to monitor the system. At 1:30 p.m., a plant operator witnessed a second remote access user opening various functions in the system that control the amount of sodium hydroxide in the water. The operator noted the remote access user raised the levels of sodium hydroxide in the water. The operator immediately reduced the levels to their appropriate amount. The initial investigation revealed that the hacker remotely accessed the treatment plant’s computer for approximately 3 to 5 minutes.

At a press conference held on February 8, 2021, Sheriff Gualtieri stated, “At no time was there a significant effect on the water being treated, and more importantly the public was never in danger.”

The investigation continues.

Verdict: 50% Exactly News

While yes, the water supply at a water treatment facility within the Tampa-St. Petersburg area did occur, it is unknown why the attackers chose that site at this time and there is no evidence yet to suggest the hackers thought maybe it would also poison the water in Tampa with Sodium Hydroxide.