The Florida Water System Hack and the Software Loophole That Got Exploited

February 11, 2021

You may have heard about the attempt to hack the water supply of a small town in Florida called Oldsmar.  

Apparently, hackers gained remote control of an employee’s computer and was trying to use it to increase the levels of sodium hydroxide in the town’s water.  Ugh! 

There is a lot to unpack here – the wisdom of having these types of controls online and the cyber weakness of small town infrastructure to name a few. 

But remote work software called TeamViewer also had a role in the drama, per an article in Vice. 

What is TeamViewer? 
It’s a popular software program that lets users remotely access and control other people’s computers.  Think about your classic help desk controlling your computer to navigate you through a problem.  It’s got 200 million users and is growing like a weed during the pandemic.  According to the company, they grew revenues 44% in 2020. 

A meme
Most cybersecurity experts groan when they hear about it, and it even has a meme because of the inherent security flaws.  We went with it for the picture for this article :) because we are also fans of Captain Kirk.  

But somehow, "TeamViewer is almost ubiquitous in industrial environments, particularly since the pandemic started," per Lesley Carhart, a principal threat analyst at industrial control system security firm Dragos.

It’s not all TeamViewer’s fault
But let’s not hammer TeamViewer too hard.  That same cyber expert says that TeamViewer can be used safely with a few simple tweaks.  

At the end of the day, it’s an educational and attitude problem more than anything else.  Small town systems can’t take the easy road when it comes to proper IT protocols.

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