Ex-official in Fla. charged with hacking district's computer system

Police have arrested the former chief financial officer of Florida’s Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District for illegally accessing the district’s computer system.

Sal Zappullo is facing at least 21 felony and nine misdemeanor attempted conspiracy counts, reported the Miami Herald. The felony charges include 13 counts of computer crime with intent to defraud, seven counts of modifying information without authority, and one count of deleting information from the wastewater treatment district’s computer system.

According to Local 10 News, Zappullo used usernames and passwords of current employees to download e-mails and documents relating to himself from home.

Paul Christian, the facility’s IT manager, discovered the breach after a routine check of the e-mail system in February, when he discovered multiple e-mails sent to Zappullo’s personal e-mail address, according to a statement from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. 

When interviewed by officers, Zappullo told a detective that he broke into the system to prove it wasn’t secure, according to the sheriff’s statement. He allegedly admitted downloading e-mails and other documents pertaining to him. Detectives found he also deleted some information, the sheriff’s office said. 

Late last year, the Homeland Security Department warned municipal power and water plants that their systems are vulnerable to hacks via free Internet search tools, GCN reported. The FBI also reported hacking attacks of the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems in three U.S. cities. SCADA systems monitor and control industrial, infrastructure or facility-based processes.

After the warning, DHS released a cybersecurity strategy outlining goals for government and industry for securing the nation’s critical infrastructure.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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