June 18, 2021

Thousands of people in the dark in Puerto Rico after cyber attack and fire

A fire at an electrical station on the American island of Puerto Rico plunged thousands of residents into darkness on the evening of Thursday, June 10, shortly after the electricity supplier announced that it had suffered a cyberattack.

“There was a fire in a transformer at the Monacillo substation”, a district of the capital, San Juan, announced the supplier Luma Energy. Two hours earlier, the company explained that it was the target of a denial of service computer attack, a technique aimed at causing the closure of a website by overloading it with traffic.

Video of a witness located near the fire: “Eight minutes after I started my shift, a fire broke out in the electronics center, leaving half of the island of Puerto Rico without power. It’s been a crazy day at work and I’m still waiting to get home. “

This cyberattack, which represented up to “Two million visits per second”, says Luma, yielding ” difficult “ customer access to their online account. It occurs a few weeks after Colonial Pipeline, the operator of a massive US pipeline, and global meat giant JBS, have both been victims of ransomware cyber attacks, or ransomware, whose authors exploit security vulnerabilities in computer systems to block them and then demand a ransom to unlock them.

The oil pipeline of the Colonial oil company, the main source of gasoline supply to most of the eastern United States, had been temporarily shut down, causing stockouts in several major cities.

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Luma had not established Thursday evening a link between the cyber attack and the fire, nor given estimates of the number of homes affected by the power cuts. The fire has grown “Protection systems to be interrupted” the flow “To avoid more damage”, explains Luma on his Facebook account. “The fire caused major power cuts throughout the island”, explains the company, which ensures “Work to restore service”.

Only automobile headlights illuminate the night of San Juan, Puerto Rico, after a major power outage on June 10, 2021.

Puerto Rico’s representative to the US Congress, Jenniffer González, said on Twitter that the power cuts affected more than 500,000 individuals. The governor of the island, Pedro Pierluisi, who evokes a « explosion », said “Take all the necessary actions to protect essential services, such as electrical service”. Authorities “Investigate the explosion” and those responsible “Will have to answer to the people of Puerto Rico”, he assured on Twitter.

Luma Energy, a company created to manage Puerto Rico’s electricity grid, has only been operating since 1is June. On social media, images showed large plumes of black smoke above the power station, along with impressive flames and sparks.

” The restoring [du courant] will start in two hours and will continue overnight “, wrote the supplier on Facebook at 7:40 p.m. local (1:40 a.m., Friday, in Paris).

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The World with AFP