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Failing Foundations: Safety concerns revolve around dam targeted in cyberattack

News 12's Tara Rosenblum has uncovered major safety concerns at a local dam that once fell victim to an international cyberattack.

News 12 Staff

Dec 9, 2021, 3:25 AM

Updated 956 days ago

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News 12's Tara Rosenblum has uncovered major safety concerns at a local dam that once fell victim to an international cyberattack.
The Bowman Avenue Dam in Rye Brook, located just 30 miles from Manhattan, was infiltrated by Iranian hackers back in 2013. However, our Team 12 investigation has found little has changed to safeguard this critical infrastructure despite the highly publicized digital breach.
The cyberattack was reportedly staged by seven Iranian hackers who are still on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
According to a federal indictment, members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard managed to infiltrate the system six times using a cellular modem, starting in August 2013. Investigators say they stole information about the dam's sluice gate, a sliding door that controls its water levels to prevent flooding.
The attack sparked immediate calls for change from senior lawmakers when it occurred.
A Team 12 investigation has discovered almost a decade later, little has changed at the flood-control dam.
Greg Mackenzie was hired to install the dam's new computer system following the cyberattack.
"I don't know how you'd ever service it if something went wrong," he says.
He is now a whistleblower who is speaking out publicly for the first time because he's convinced innocent lives are at risk.
"It's an accident, bad accident, waiting to happen," he says. 
Mackenzie showed News 12 a dozen emails he sent to Rye city officials who are responsible for maintaining the dam.
They go back a decade and highlight multiple problems he reportedly witnessed firsthand, while on the job.
It includes missing parts to ongoing problems with the very same sluice gate that the Iranians are accused of hacking.
"We don't know whether it works or not, that's the problem," he says.
While Mackenzie believes a cyberattack could happen again, he insists that the bigger threat is Mother Nature.
After the remnants of Hurricane Ida battered New York in September, a surge of water topped the aging dam, flooding businesses and homes downstream in Rye Brook - including Mackenzie's home.
"I am kind of at my wit's end with this. I mean this is ridiculous," he says. "The dam is too old, too small, it's obsolete. It needs to be redone."
After he told News 12 that his complaints fell on deaf ears and News 12's calls went unreturned, our Turn To Tara team went to Rye City Hall to ask questions.
News 12 was told to wait, but no one came to speak with the crew.
So News 12 started digging, and over the past few months, discovered two documents calling for improvements to the sluice gate.
The first was in a 2007 flood mitigation study and another in Rye's capital improvement plan for 2016-2020.
Rye officials eventually emailed a response, shifting blame for the delayed repairs to the governor's Office of Storm Recovery, which later said that it expects the repairs to begin next spring.
"The stream gauge project remains in process in the hands of the governor's Office of Storm Recovery and the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York," said City of Rye Mayor Josh Cohn.
State records show the dam flunked its inspection just last year, receiving a rating of "unsound."
News 12 also learned the Bowman Avenue Dam has no emergency action plan on file with the state, a legal requirement for all dams which spells out what should happen in the event of an emergency.
Even the Army Corps of Engineers says the dam carries significant hazard potential, meaning an attack or breach could cause an explosion, flooding, property damage and even injuries.


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