Brazilian Blackout Traced to Sooty Insulators, Not Hackers

Brazilian Blackout Traced to Sooty Insulators, Not Hackers
Brazilian Blackout Traced to Sooty Insulators, Not Hackers 

By Marcelo Soares
Threat Level
November 9, 2009

A massive 2007 electrical blackout in Brazil newly blamed on computer 
hackers was actually the result of a utility company's negligent 
maintenance of high voltage insulators on two transmission lines, 
according to reports from government regulators and others who 
investigated the incident for more than a year.

In a broadcast Sunday night, the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes cited 
unnamed sources in making the extraordinary claim that a two-day outage 
in the state of Espirito Santo was triggered by hackers targeting a 
utility company's control systems. The blackout affected some three 
million people. Another, smaller blackout north of Rio de Janeiro in 
January 2005 was also caused by hackers, the network claimed.

Brazilian government officials over the weekend disputed the report, and 
Raphael Mandarino Jr., director of the Homeland Security Information and 
Communication Directorate, told the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo that he's 
investigated the claims and found no evidence of hacker attacks, adding 
that Brazil's electric control systems are not directly connected to the 

On Monday, Furnas Centrais Eltricas, the utility company involved, told 
Threat Level it "has no knowledge of hackers acting in Furnas. power 
transmission system."

A review of official reports from the utility, the country's independent 
system operators group and its energy regulatory agency turns up nothing 
to support the hacking claim.


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