- Hackers targeted the computer infrastructure of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority on Sunday, according to Reuters, but officials say customer information was not at risk or compromised.
- The news comes after federal law enforcement agencies issued an alert that Russian hackers have been engaged in a methodical, long-term campaign to infiltrate and surveil critical United States infrastructure.
- It is the latest headache for the bankrupt utility, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria last year and continues to work at rebuilding the island's grid while under scrutiny from lawmakers over allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
PREPA, it seems, just cannot catch a break. Earlier this month, lawmakers began probing allegations of corruption and mismanagement at the utility; thousands of customers are still without power; and the utility continues to work through a bankruptcy proceeding to address $9 billion in debt.
Now, add to that a cyberintrusion that has triggered an investigation. While there is no evidence that Russian hackers were behind the breach, the news comes just a week after the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security alleged hackers from that nation are targeting U.S. infrastructure, including power plants.
The other main suspect would be North Korea. Cybersecurity firm Dragos this year issued a report noting a rise in targeted attempts to infiltrate utility systems coming from North Korea-related hackers. The review of 2017 also notes hackers are getting more sophisticated and more dangerous to industry, with malware increasingly being used to target industrial control systems.
A PREPA spokesperson told Reuters the intrusion was “being investigated and referred to the relevant authorities."
For Puerto Rico, it is one more issue to tackle in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which last year devastated the island and destroyed its power grid. The island's financial woes predated the storm but have made recovery difficult. As of Monday, virtually all of the island's generation was back online but about 7% of customers remained without power.
Also earlier this month, members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources sent a letter to PREPA Interim Executive Director Justo Gonzalez, seeking information regarding allegations of corruption and the mismanagement of power restoration efforts following Hurricane Maria.
And the island is struggling to retain control over its institutions. The Puerto Rico Energy Commission has filed a lawsuit against the island's federal Financial Oversight and Management Board, claiming the board is attempting to usurp control of the island's energy future.