May 19, 2022

Puerto Rico’s Power Distributor Suffered a Cyberattack Hours Before a Devastating Fire

Puerto Rico’s main power provider suffered a cyberattack shortly before a fire at a substation in San Juan Thursday caused blackouts for hundreds of thousands of residents, the company said.

Luma Energy LLC said Thursday a distributed denial-of-service attack targeted its customer portal, Mi Luma, as well as its mobile app, shutting out customers trying to access their accounts or report outages.

Denial-of-service attacks swarm requests at systems in huge volumes, attempting to overload their capacity to take them down. Attackers flooded Luma’s systems with more than 2 million hits per second, the company said.

The attack was discovered around midday Thursday, said Wayne Stensby, Luma’s president and chief executive, in an interview broadcast live on

Facebook

Thursday afternoon, just hours before the fire.

“We are aware there was targeted denial-of-service [attacks] on our website in the last few days,” he said. “We’ve let the authorities know,” he added. The company didn’t immediately comment further.

Wayne Stensby (L), president and chief executive of Luma Energy, speaking during a press conference in San Juan on June 11.



Photo:

thais llorca/Shutterstock

Luma said in a statement on its website Friday it hasn’t determined the cause of a fire that ignited at 6:11 p.m. Thursday at a substation in the Monacillo section of San Juan. An explosion was heard as flames reached high above the electrical equipment at the facility, according to video footage obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

The incident knocked out power for 900,000 residents, with about 36,000 still without power as of Friday morning.

Emergency crews spent more than seven hours working to stabilize the power system, the company said. The fire and the cyberattack haven’t been linked.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Juan office is seeking information about the power outages, according to a notice on social media.

Even before Thursday’s cyberattack, customers were frustrated with long wait times when trying to access their accounts online, said Mr. Stensby in the Facebook interview.

Puerto Rico residents complained on social media of waits of an hour or more.

Luma, a consortium of infrastructure and engineering service providers

Quanta Services Inc.

and Innovative Emergency Management Inc. in the U.S. and

Atco Ltd.

in Canada, is managing electricity for the government-run Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which is bankrupt and has struggled for years to keep outages at bay.

Hundreds of thousands were left without electricity after a fire broke out at a power station in Puerto Rico on Thursday. Luma Energy, which took over power transmission and distribution on the island this month, also reported a cyberattack, which it didn’t immediately link to the fire. Photo: Puerto Rico Fire Department Corp/Shutterstock

Luma created its mobile app after customers inundated the call center in recent weeks, as the consortium geared up to take over energy transmission, Mr. Stensby said.

The attack on Luma is the latest in a string of cyber assaults that have targeted critical infrastructure operators in recent months. In May, criminals infected systems at Colonial Pipeline Co. with ransomware, resulting in a six-day shutdown of the largest energy pipeline on the U.S. East Coast. The U.S. operations of meat-processing giant

JBS SA

also were hit with a ransomware attack over the Memorial Day weekend.

These attacks have prompted warnings from the White House to private-sector companies to improve their cybersecurity defenses, and Congress to hold hearings this week with Colonial Pipeline CEO

Joseph Blount.

Even before the fire, various sections of Puerto Rico have periodically been without power on an almost daily basis for weeks, residents say. Luma has been under scrutiny since formally taking control of electricity transmission and distribution on the island on June 1.

“Part of the dilemma in these first few weeks is the [power] system is so fragile,” Mr. Stensby said in the Facebook interview. Luma was awarded the contract in June 2020.

Write to Kim S. Nash at [email protected] and James Rundle at [email protected]

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

in Tech
Related Posts

Music Publishers Sue Roblox for Letting Game Creators Use Unlicensed Songs

June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021

A group of music publishers representing the songwriters of hits from Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande and the Rolling Stones is...

Pinterest's Use of AI Drives Growth

May 22, 2021

May 22, 2021

Using neural networks, the site is able to find images—and ads—that will catch the consumer’s eye.

Bill Gates Backs New Venture Fund Focused on Metamaterials

June 2, 2021

June 2, 2021

A new venture fund has launched to invest in startups commercializing metamaterials, a budding area of materials science that could...

Ant Wins China’s Approval to Set Up Consumer-Finance Company

June 3, 2021

June 3, 2021

Ant Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China. Photo: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg News Updated June 3, 2021 6:05 am ET China’s banking and...

United Plans to Buy 15 Supersonic Planes

June 3, 2021

June 3, 2021

United Airlines said it hopes to fly passengers on a planned new supersonic jetliner by decade’s end, which would resurrect...

Uber and Lyft Thought Prices Would Normalize by Now. Here’s Why They Are Still High.

October 30, 2021

October 30, 2021

Americans hailing an Uber or a Lyft ride still face elevated prices due to a shortage of drivers—the latest example...

A Technology Race to Stop the Mass Killing of Baby Chicks

May 29, 2021

May 29, 2021

At a hatchery in the Netherlands that supplies the egg industry with laying hens, a machine inserts needles into rows...

Quanergy to Go Public Through SPAC Deal

June 22, 2021

June 22, 2021

Quanergy Systems Inc., a provider of lidar sensors and 3-D perception software, is going public through a combination with a...

Google Strikes Deal With Hospital Chain to Develop Healthcare Algorithms

May 26, 2021

May 26, 2021

Alphabet Inc.’s GOOG 0.65% Google and national hospital chain HCA Healthcare Inc. HCA 1.19% have struck a deal to develop...

China’s Tech Clampdown Is Spreading Like Wildfire

June 6, 2021

June 6, 2021

TAIPEI—The latest salvos in China’s campaign against its tech companies make one thing clear: Jack Ma’s businesses aren’t the only...

Didi Global Prices IPO at $14 a Share

June 30, 2021

June 30, 2021

Chinese ride-hailing goliath Didi Global Inc. priced its IPO at $14 on Tuesday afternoon, according to people familiar with the...

Lordstown Motors Executives Sold Stock Ahead of Reporting Results and Before Troubles Came to Light

June 21, 2021

June 21, 2021

Several top executives at Lordstown Motors Corp. RIDE 3.30% sold off chunks of stock in the electric-truck startup ahead of...

Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto Could Be Unmasked at Florida Trial

November 14, 2021

November 14, 2021

A seemingly run-of-the-mill trial is playing out in Florida: The family of a deceased man is suing his former business...

Teamsters Union Votes to Help Organize Amazon Workers

June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021

One of America’s largest labor unions passed a resolution Thursday designed to aid Amazon. AMZN -1.46% com Inc. workers in...

Tesla’s China Sales Bounce Back Despite Consumer Backlash

June 8, 2021

June 8, 2021

SHANGHAI— Tesla Inc.’s TSLA 1.01% sales in China rebounded in May after a short slump, a boost for the electric-vehicle...