Kansas Man Admits Hacking Public Water Facility

Roughly seven months after being indicted for his actions, a Kansas man admitted in court to tampering with the systems at the Post Rock Rural Water District.

The man, Wyatt Travnichek, 23, of Lorraine, was an employee of the Ellsworth County drinking water treatment facility between January 2018 and January 2019.

As part of his role with the facility, he would use a remote login system to monitor the plant after hours, according to documents presented in court.

In March 2019, two months after resigning his position at the Post Rock Rural Water District, Travnichek used the same remote login system to shut down the facility and turn one of its filters off.

The plant’s system, investigators discovered, was accessed from Travnichek’s cell phone and the device was in his possession when the facility was shut down. The defendant told investigators that on the night of the incident he was intoxicated and didn’t remember anything.

“Protecting America’s drinking water is a top EPA priority. EPA will continue our focused efforts with DOJ and the states as we investigate and pursue any threats that might be directed toward vital community drinking water resources,” said Lance Ehrig of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division in Kansas.

Travnichek pleaded guilty to damaging a computer during unauthorized access and to tampering with a public water system. The EPA and the FBI recommend a sentence of 12 months and one day in prison.

Related: Small Kansas Water Utility System Hacking Highlights Risks

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Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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