Hacker Accessed Bay Area Water Treatment Computer System

(TNS) — A hacker accessed the computer system of a Bay Area water treatment plant in January and deleted programs the plant used to treat drinking water, a senior intelligence official confirmed Thursday.

NBC News first reported Thursday that the unidentified hacker used a former plant employee’s username and password to gain entry to the unidentified Bay Area water treatment facility on Jan. 15.

Michael Sena, executive director of the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, confirmed NBC’s report about the security breach, but declined to say where it occurred or who carried it out.

Sena also declined to say whether the hacker would face criminal prosecution.

The NBC report stated that the hacker “tried to poison” the Bay Area water supply, an assertion Sena disputed.

“No one tried to poison any of our water,” he said. “That is not accurate”

Tampering with the computer programs used to treat drinking water would be unlikely to result in any widespread poisoning, Sena said.

“It takes a lot to influence a water supply chain,” he said. “For a large impact, there has to be a large change in the chemicals in the system. The amount of chemicals it would take to cause harm to people…the numbers are astronomical.”

The Jan. 15 hack represented “no specific threat to public safety,” he added.

News of the breach comes as officials continue to investigate May’s Colonial Pipeline cyber attack, which shuttered gas stations from Texas to New Jersey and raised new concerns about the vulnerability of American infrastructure.

The San Francisco-based Northern California Regional Intelligence Center works with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to track suspicious activity, criminal activity and threats to the region’s infrastructure.

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