By Rick Sallinger

(CBS4)– After a hacker managed to break into a computer system of a water treatment plant in Florida, trying to poison the water, there is a concern over how to keep Colorado water systems safe and secure. Utility companies say they have systems in place to protect themselves, and the public, from destructive cyber intruders.

(credit: CBS)

The computer system for a water treatment system near Tampa was hacked with 100 times the usual amount of lye, a substance used in drain cleaner.

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Denver Water says it is taking that incident seriously and following it closely. Smaller systems can often be more vulnerable. But Consolidated mutual in Denver’s western suburbs says its control systems are not online and deploys a defense in-depth cybersecurity program 24/7.

Ben Miller is vice president of a company that provides cyber security for critical infrastructure like water supplies.

He told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger, “Everything my team goes into whether it is water, power or another critical infrastructure, we always find a network connection in the environment.”

In Aspen recently, someone still at large turned off the gas for 3,500 customers, leaving the name of an environmental group on a pipe.

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(credit: City of Aspen)

Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said, “Actually it was very shocking it’s not that we didn’t recognize there are vulnerabilities in the utilities system, but to have it on that level.”

Utilities often can present a tempting target. CBS4 recently reported on plans by a neo-Nazi group to attack an Xcel power station in Colorado. That plot was broken up before it could begin.

Consolidated Mutual Water Statement from Chris Jones VP Chief of Operations: “I can assure you that protecting the water we serve to our customers is our highest priority. I can also ensure our customers and you that we are vigilant when it comes to cybersecurity. Please know that cybersecurity is a priority to Consolidated. We deploy a defense-in-depth cybersecurity program 24/7 for the entire company.

(credit: CBS)

Denver Water Statement from spokesman Todd Hartman: “Denver Water monitors water quality 24/7/365 using multiple methods and checkpoints. We view operational awareness and cybersecurity as two of our top priorities to ensure we deliver safe, high-quality water every day.”

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Some Colorado lawmakers at the state Capitol have voiced concerns. State Sen. Joann Ginal’s bill aimed at protecting Colorado’s power grid has died in previous sessions. The legislation called for the public utilities commission to identify where the vulnerabilities are, how to mitigate them and where funding would come from. Power companies pushed back and it failed. A dozen other states have similar rules.

Rick Sallinger