Kansas Man Indicted In Water Plant Hack

You might remember that there was a recent incident that was potentially life threatening where a pubic water system was hacked and the chemical mix that purifies the water was changed to something that could kill. Yesterday a suspect was indicted for a somewhat similar hack according to ARS Technica that took place in 2019:

Federal prosecutors have indicted a Kansas man for allegedly logging into a computer system at a public water system and tampering with the process for cleaning and disinfecting customers’ drinking water. An indictment filed in US District Court for the District of Kansas said Wyatt A. Travnichek, 22, of Ellsworth County, Kansas, was an employee from January 2018 to January 2019 at the Ellsworth County Rural Water District No. 1. Also known as the Post Rock Water District, the facility serves more than 1,500 retail customers and 10 wholesale customers in eight Kansas counties. Part of Wyatt’s responsibilities included remotely logging in to the water district’s computer system to monitor the plant after hours. 

In late March 2019, Wednesday’s indictment said, Post Rock experienced a remote intrusion to its computer system that resulted in the shutdown of the facility’s processes for ensuring water is safe to drink. “On or about March 27, 2019, in the District of Kansas, the defendant, Wyatt Travnichek, knowingly tampered with a public drinking water system, namely the Ellsworth County Rural Water District No. 1,” prosecutors alleged. “To wit: he logged in remotely to Post Rock Rural Water District’s computer system and performed activities that shut down processes at the facility which affect the facility’s cleaning and disinfecting procedures with the intention of harming the Ellsworth County Rural Water District No. 1.” Wednesday’s indictment didn’t say how Wyatt allegedly gained access to the Post Rock facility.

It’s good that the authorities hunted this scumbag down and are holding him accountable. But what really needs to happen is that IT security has to be significantly improved so that these incidents don’t happen. I suspect that I am asking for too much. But it doesn’t hurt to hope that things will improve on that front.

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