BWL service steady despite brand new type of cyber attack, says utility’s GM


LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – “Your anti-virus software has to plug every hole… perpetrator only has to find one to get through,” said BWL General Manager Dick Peffley.

Hackers found that gap Monday. Peffley says a BWL employee opened an infected email attachment, triggering the malware attack.

BWL’s round the clock IT department discovered the virus and the company alerted law enforcement shortly after taking its corporate network offline.

Peffley says the attack was possible because of the corporate network’s interaction with the outside world. The utility itself, on the other hand, was never threatened.

“We do not allow the outside world to chat with us and our generating facilities or our transmission distribution,” Peffley added.

Although they had earlier in the week, BWL is now stopping short of calling this attack ransomware.

Such an attack doesn’t destroy files, it simply locks them up until you pay.

“Kind of compare it to if your car has been parked illegally a certain number of times, and your vehicle gets a boot put on the tire,” explained Michigan State Police Det. Lt. Jay Poupard, a cybercrime expert.

Today, Peffley declined to confirm or deny if the company has paid a ransom. Authorities told him to not discuss the investigation and he’s not taking chances.

“These people came into our house. They messed with us. I will do anything in my power to work with local, state and federal officials to bring them to justice. And if I have to hold back some information right now to do so, I’m going to.”

Fortunately, Peffley says no personal information has been compromised.

Lansing’s new chief information officer, Collin Boyce, says the city is prepared for similar, evolving cyber attacks.

“As things evolve we’re modifying to make sure that our mechanisms are adequate for protection,” Boyce explained.

He also said the city has added a layer of security following BWL’s attack. But he wouldn’t go into detail for security reasons.

Despite all of this security, Peffley said that of the 50 anti-virus companies BWL reached out to about this virus, only three had ever seen it before.

6 News has also spoken with the FBI, Michigan State Police and Lansing police. No law enforcement officials would go into specific detail regarding this ongoing investigation.

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