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Stuart tightens cybersecurity at water plant after breach near Tampa

The City of Stuart is viewing a cybersecurity breach near Tampa as a cautionary tale and tightening up security just in case.
The City of Stuart is viewing a cybersecurity breach near Tampa as a cautionary tale and tightening up security just in case.
The City of Stuart is viewing a cybersecurity breach near Tampa as a cautionary tale and tightening up security just in case.
Posted at 6:50 PM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 18:50:44-05

STUART, Fla. — The City of Stuart is viewing a cybersecurity breach near Tampa as a cautionary tale and tightening up security just in case.

The move comes as Pinellas County detectives investigate a computer software intrusion at a Water Treatment Plant in Oldsmar near Tampa.

Investigators say the intruder briefly attempted to change the chemical makeup of the water supply.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said on Feb. 5, deputies were notified by the city of Oldsmar that their computer system had been remotely accessed by an unknown person.

Officials say the public was not exposed to the contaminated water and there’s no indication other water system have been breached in the region.

However, Stuart leaders ordered staff to examine the city’s cybersecurity system as a precautionary measure.

“Criminals are getting smarter and those characters are always coming up with different ways to intrude,” said Stuart city manager, David Dyess.

The City of Stuart faced a ransomware cyberattack two years ago prompting the municipality to make significant investments in cybersecurity.

“We have specifically assigned a IT staff member that's constantly looking at the cybersecurity aspect of that,” said Dyess.

Stuart’s water supply is tested hourly and treated 24 hours before it flows to roughly 16,000 residents.

“We have both mechanical mechanisms in place as well as electronic mechanisms in place,” said Dyess. “On the mechanical side we test our water every hour by a human. We're a 24-hour operation so testing is are going on all day and all night.”

Tampering with a water treatment facility is considered a federal offense.

Stuart’s water plant is gated and monitored around the clock.

“If those levels at all change or adjust, we can immediately shut our electronic components systems down and go to manual controls of those different chemicals that would prevent any intrusion into our water systems that’s going out to our citizens,” Dyess said. “Our water never goes out to our citizens before that 24-hour cycle occurs.”

The FBI is still trying to pinpoint who is responsible for the Pinellas County incident.