The Russian Water-Pump Hack That Wasn't

A claim that Russian hackers had remotely destroyed a water pump at an Illinois utility could have been debunked with just one phone call -- but it wasn't.

A leaked memo led to dozens of media reports of an alleged destruction of this piece of U.S. infrastructure by an international hacker, even leading some to describe it as America's very own Stuxnet.'s security blog Threat Level contacted the contractor behind the Russian IP address that sparked the hacking rumors, and spoke to the man who logged on overseas.

"I could have straightened it up with just one phone call, and this would have all been defused," Jim Mimlitz told Mimlitz, founder and owner of Navionics Research, was vacationing in Russia in June and had logged on to check the system's data.

But no phone call was made after a repairman working on the failed pump was examining the logs on the SCADA system on Nov. 8 and saw the Russian IP addressed connecting to the system with Mimlitz's username next to it, reports.

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The information was instead immediately passed on to the Environmental Protection Agency out of caution, which then transferred it to the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, a center that connected many different government agencies, reports.

Then, less than a week after a memo on the alleged hack by Russia was released, the Department of Homeland Security recanted the statement and said that there was no evidence of a hack and that the water pump had simply burned out.

"They assumed Mimlitz would never ever have been in Russia," Mimlitz told Wired, referring to himself in the third person. "They shouldn't have assumed that."

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