Kansas hacker pleads guilty to shutting down drinking water plant with phone

Local News

ELLSWORTH COUNTY (KSNT) – A Kansas man used his cell phone to shut down a drinking water treatment plant, according to court documents in the case.

Handling the incident as a federal crime, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wyatt Travnichek, 23, of Lorraine, pleaded guilty to tampering with a public water system and one county of reckless damage to a protected computer system during unauthorized entry. Travnichek had formerly worked at the Post Rock Rural Water District before investigators said he hacked it. During his employment from January 2018 to January 2019, he gained access to the plant including a remote login system, so he could monitor it after hours.

After quitting his job at the plant at the beginning of 2019, he then used the remote login system again on March 27, 2019, to shut down the plant and one of its treatment filters, according to the U.S. DOJ. Investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency, Kansas Bureau of Investigation and FBI tied Travnichek’s cell phone to his access and the shutdown. When asked about what happened that night, Travnichek told investigators that he was intoxicated and didn’t remember anything, court documents showed.

“There is no doubt that Travnichek’s intentional actions directly placed the public in harm’s way. The plea should send a clear message to anyone who attempts to tamper with public facilities.”

Charles Dayoub, FBI Special Agent

Travnichek could see a little over a year of time in prison for the charges he pleaded guilty to, according to the U.S. DOJ. A district court judge will determine his full sentence.

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December 31 2021 11:59 pm