Puerto Rico power utility hacked but customer data not at risk

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Puerto Rico’s bankrupt power utility, PREPA, said on Monday it had been hacked over the weekend, but customer information was not compromised.

A man walks past the headquarters of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) in San Juan, Puerto Rico January 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

The computer infrastructure of PREPA, as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is known, suffered a cyber attack on Sunday night, Executive Director Justo Gonzalez Torres said in a statement.

“In these moments we are protecting the systems and working to resolve the situation,” Gonzalez said in Spanish, adding that investigations into the source of the hack were ongoing.

PREPA’s customer service system was not affected and customer information was not at risk, the utility said, though the attack led to longer wait times at its service center.

The news comes on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump’s blaming the Russian government last week for a campaign of cyber attacks targeting the U.S. power grid.

As of Monday evening, there was no indication that Russia was to blame for PREPA’s hack. When asked about potential sources of the attack, a spokesman for PREPA said the matter was “being investigated and referred to the relevant authorities,” declining to say who those authorities were.

A spokesman for Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello had no immediate comment.

It is the latest in a cavalcade of headaches for PREPA, which last year filed a form of U.S. bankruptcy to shed some $9 billion in debt. Four months later, in September, its grid was virtually destroyed when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, knocking out power to all 3.4 million residents of the U.S. commonwealth.

Rossello has announced plans to privatize PREPA, which is burdened by outdated infrastructure and years of bloated administrative spending.

Hurricane Maria was the worst storm to strike Puerto Rico in 90 years, killing dozens and causing tens of billions of dollars in damage. It came as the territory was already facing an historic economic crisis, having filed the largest U.S. government bankruptcy in history, with $120 billion in combined bond and pension debt.

Reporting by Nick Brown; Editing by Leslie Adler