Hackers' Attack On Illinois Water Plant Raises Concerns In OKC

Monday, November 21st 2011, 6:23 pm
By: News 9

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security are trying to figure out how hackers were able to gain access to a water treatment plant in Illinois and Houston.

So far, investigators are not calling these "Terror Attacks," but they did say one of them has been traced back to Russia. They said all of this highlights vulnerabilities in U.S. systems.

This has us taking a closer look at our water systems here in the metro to see if something like that could happen here.

We learned Oklahoma City uses the same computer system as the one that was hacked in Springfield, Illinois. If a security breech happened here, it would impact three water treatment plants and more than one million customers.

A local computer hacker, who wants to conceal his identity, said our city's water plants are vulnerable.

He explained how someone overseas was able to damage utility equipment in Illinois.

"I believe they put out sniffers on the internet and was able to find the hole inside the system, was able to compromise it from the third party, and was able to get into other places," the hacker said.

He doesn't think the hacker intended to get inside a water plant or had malicious plans, but found an easy target.

As for Oklahoma City, it is aware of the problems in Illinois, but officials would not comment on security specifics.

In a statement, a city utility spokesperson said national water utility organizations keep us informed, so we can review our own situation based on what others experienced.

The city has strong links with Emergency Management Departments and the Office of Homeland Security. Springfield's experience is a good reminder about protecting electronic systems, and being alert and aware while on duty at the treatment plants.

"This may give the I.T. security personnel an opportunity to say, hey this happened, it could have been bigger. How can we budget, how can we grow. How can we plan in order to avoid this happening on a bigger scale," the hacker said.

A city spokesperson said the I.T. Department does work very closely with the water treatment plants and does regular updates to protect the computer system

The hacker that got into the water plant in South Houston said he did it just to show how easy it can be done.