News Feature | July 5, 2017

Water Utility Hacker Disrupts East Coast's Remote Metering

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

jail reg new

A Pennsylvania man was sentenced to one year and a day in federal prison for hacking computers that disrupted operations at municipal water utilities.

He also owes “three years of supervised release, and a fine of $40,000,” Ars Technica reported.

Adam Flanagan had pleaded guilty “to two counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“Flanagan worked as a radio frequency engineer for a company that made remote meter readers for utilities in municipalities throughout the Eastern United States. After he was terminated by the company, he hacked the meters through the Internet and disabled them,” the report said.

The result was that billing data became inaccurate and that meters could not be read remotely. The hacking had major fallout for Flanagan’s employer, which had to test the readers to understand what happened, prosecutors said, per the report.

“Because he had tampered with municipal water systems and interfered with computers used to maintain those systems — considered critical infrastructure by law — Flanagan was sentenced under enhanced sentencing guidelines,” Metro reported.

The impact of Flanagan’s actions were felt by water utilities far and wide. Court documents said he caused six incidents in five cities, according to Bleeping Computer.

“At the time of his arrest, Flanagan faced a maximum sentence of 90 years in prison, plus a $3 million fine,” the report said.

Ars Technica depicted Flanagan as "angry and possibly inebriated" when he decided to act.

“I am not at all a master hacker,” Flanagan told an FBI agent, per the report.

"The times I did like I said were like coming home from the bar drinking, making very stupid decisions," he told FBI investigators, per The Register. "As far as a master hacking ring. That's insane. That is... I mean I wish I had that skill."

For similar stories visit Water Online’s AMR, AMI And Metering Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Prison Cells," Miss Millions © 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/