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Electrical supe charged with damaging California canal system

Facing 10 years

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A former employee for a federally-owned canal system in California was charged with installing software that damaged a computer used to divert water out of a local river.

Michael Keehn, of Willows, California, faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Federal court documents claim the former electrical supervisor with the Tehama Colusa Canal Authority "intentionally caused damage without authorization to a protected computer."

The TCCA operates two canals that move water out of the Sacramento River for using in irrigation and agriculture in Northern California. As part of its duties, the TCCA uses a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to regulate the system.

Attempts to reach Keehn for comment were not successful. A report found here quoted Keehn as saying "I'm sure I did something to cause it" but that he wasn't entirely sure. Keehn worked for the TCCA for more than 17 years before being fired on August 15, the date he is alleged to have installed the unauthorized software.

The security of SCADA systems has emerged as a sensitive issue in the post 9-11 world. In 2000, a disgruntled former employee for a water system in Australia used a SCADA system to spill raw sewage into waterways, hotel grounds and canals in the area, according to this article from ComputerWorld. ®

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