clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Illinois water plant 'hack' was a false alarm

New, 2 comments

The Illinois water plant hacking scare that occurred in early November was actually just an authorized login from a remote location and unrelated to the pump failure five months later.

Water Plant Hack
Water Plant Hack

Earlier this month, a pump failure at an Illinois water plant was blamed on Russian hackers, but the FBI and DHS found no evidence to support a security breach. Now Wired has dug into the case and found the whole hacking scare was much ado about nothing.

The story starts with Jim Mimlitz, who helped set up the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems at the Illinois facility and occasionally provided technical support. While on vacation in Russia, he received a call on his cellphone seeking advice and logged in to examine some data records; he didn't tell the caller where he was.

Five months later, a failed pump prompted an investigation which turned up Mimlitz's user name next to a Russian IP address. The information went to the EPA, who relayed it to the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center. Somewhere in that chain, somebody assumed the June login caused the November pump failure and the center released a report of the "hack" on November 10th, which eventually made it's way to the blog of Joe Weiss. Nobody ever thought to ask Jim Mimlitz if he had logged in from Russia until the FBI and DHS team began investigating the case.

Weiss says he's shocked the report was released without anyone verifying the information in it, but the Intelligence Center seems more concerned with how the report fell into the hands of a blogger in the first place. It's all a bit embarrassing, but maybe the fiasco will prompt actions that could prevent an actual hack. You can hit the source for the whole story.