Kansas Man Indicted for Hacking, Tampering With Water Utility System

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Attacker disabled water-purification operation systems “with intention of harming” the rural water district.

A 22-year-old man has been indicted for breaking into a Kansas water utility’s computer systems and disabling the cleaning and disinfecting operations for the locality’s drinking water supply. Wyatt A. Travnichek allegedly hacked into the Ellsworth County Rural Water District No. 1’s computer system on March 27, 2019, according to the US Department of Justice.

Travnichek was charged with one count of tampering with a public water system and one count of reckless damage in his unauthorized access to a protected computer. According to the DoJ, his attack was waged “with the intention of harming the Ellsworth Rural Water District No. 1, also known as Post Rock Rural Water District.”

“By illegally tampering with a public drinking water system, the defendant threatened the safety and health of an entire community,” said Lance Ehrig, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Kansas. “EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to upholding the laws designed to protect our drinking water systems from harm or threat of harm. Today’s indictment sends a clear message that individuals who intentionally violate these laws will be vigorously prosecuted.”

The two charges combined carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison and up to $500,000 in fines.

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