The breach took place in 2013, at Bowman Avenue Dam in Rye, New York. According to the report, which cited unnamed government officials and people familiar with the incident, hackers did not take control of the dam, but they did “probe” the internal dam system.
The hackers apparently used a cellular modem to gain access to the dam, the Journal reported, citing an unclassified Homeland Security summary of the case. Analysts at the National Security Agency analysts first noticed them while investigating attacks on Capital One and SunTrust banks.
Initially, officials had trouble identifying which dam the hackers targeted. They knew the name of the dam included “Bowman,” but there are 31 dams in the U.S. that include “Bowman” in their name. At first, there were fears a massive dam that controls irrigation and prevents flooding in Prineville, Oregon. This led to the White House being notified of the intrusion.
Especially since the discovery of Stuxnet, the secret worm believed to be created by the U.S. and Israel that was able to hamper Iran’s nuclear program, the White House has been aware of the possibility of a counterattack. And warnings of the potential of cyberattacks harming American critical infrastructure have long cited dams as potential targets. In 2013, the same year as the Bowman breach, hackers—believed at the time to be from China—breached a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers database that contained sensitive information about U.S. dams.
Last month, a report by Office of the Inspector General said the computer systems at the Department of Interior had been compromised by hackers at least 19 times. It is unclear, however, if this is related to the Bowman hack.