The FBI is investigating Moore County after a power grid was “deliberately hacked,” causing a major outage.
The Moore County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the details at a news conference Sunday.
More than 32,000 people in Moore County are still without power. According to Sheriff Ronnie Fields, the outages began after 7:00 p.m. Saturday night across communities in the area.
Firearms were used to shoot and disable equipment at two substations in Moore County, Sheriff Fields said.
Power could be out by Thursday, according to the sheriff’s office and Duke Energy officials. The officials added that due to the damage to the substations, the repair should be more complicated.
The FBI is assisting in the investigation, as is the State Bureau of Investigation, deputies said at the news conference.
“The NC Department of Public Safety is working with our local and federal law enforcement partners and will provide appropriate state resources to assist in this investigation,” said NCDPS Secretary Eddie M. Buffalo, Jr.
When asked if it was domestic terrorism, Sheriff Fields said he couldn’t say whether it was domestic terrorism or not, and said he would leave that up to the feds to determine. But he added that it was completely intentional and the criminals knew what they were doing.
Fields also said he could not discuss a motive because no group has yet claimed responsibility.
Deputies also announced that a curfew will be in effect for the rest of this week in Moore County. It starts at 21:00 and will continue until 5:00 every day.
The Moore County Sports Complex at Hillcrest Park is being used as a shelter. Schools in Moore County will be closed Monday, according to the sheriff’s office.
“North Carolina Emergency Management is working with local and state agencies to ensure the safety of Moore County residents affected by power outages with the necessary resources,” said Will Ray, director of North Carolina Emergency Management.
Deputies said they are actively looking for the people suspected of being responsible for the power outage.
Security expert and former FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker spoke to Channel 9 about what it’s like to investigate such information. He said the FBI would come at any moment to attack critical infrastructure. Channel 9’s Genevieve Curtis asked what it would take for a case to rise to the level of domestic terrorism.
“It should be a motivational statement,” Swecker said. “You have to have a suspect to know if it’s politically motivated. Terrorism uses violence to frighten the public to, broadly speaking, effect political change.”
(PICTURED: Moore County substation attack)
Swecker said it will be an extensive investigation and a suspect is expected to be found soon.
Feds warn of power grid attacks
Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security warned that power grid attacks were coming. The DOJ report said domestic terrorists had been specifically planning “physical attacks” on US power grids since 2010 and that the threats were credible.
That’s exactly what happened in Moore County this weekend, and questions surround whether Duke Energy heeded the warning and had preventative infrastructure in place.
While North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has stated that a major focus for the state and the nation is on preventing cyber attacks, data shows that physical attacks on power grids are a greater threat domestically.
Sheriff Fields said Monday that the person or people who carried out the attack had been trained.
“The person who caused the damage knew exactly what they were doing to cause the damage that caused them to stop,” Fields said.
Swecker spoke with Curtis about whether the attack exposed a vulnerability in our power grid as it relates to our national security.
“I used to run this office at the FBI, and we’ve always been concerned about our power grid, a lot of our critical infrastructure, communications, banking, it’s all in Charlotte,” Swecker said. “Soldiers, outside of Charlotte when you see a goal like that, you wonder if we’ve taken our eye off the ball here to make those goals harder, because you have to wonder how someone got so close and place so many people in it. darkness.”
Officials on Monday did not share details about what security measures the state and federal government require for those power grids.
A Duke Energy spokesperson released the following statement about the outage on Sunday:
“We have experienced multiple equipment failures affecting substations in the Moore County area, resulting in approximately 45,000 customers currently without power. There are indications that vandalism was the reason for the outage, and we are working with local, state and federal authorities as they continue to investigate the incident.
“We are pursuing multiple repair options to restore as many customers as quickly and safely as possible. This is a significant local outage that will affect nearly all customers in Moore County, and customers should be prepared for extended outages that could continue today and into Thursday for many customers. We will update recovery time estimates as we receive additional information. We incorporate multiple layers of security to quickly detect and respond to threats.”
Governor Roy Cooper weighed the situation and said:
“I appreciate the quick response of local and state emergency responders in Moore County to protect public safety and working with Duke Energy to restore power,” Governor Cooper said. “An attack on critical infrastructure is a serious and intentional crime, and I expect state and federal authorities to thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice. Moore County has strong and vibrant communities, and the state will continue to provide transportation and public safety assistance.” “
Harris Teeter has announced that it will provide free ice packs to community members affected by power outages in Moore County.
The grocer said it will offer the service at each Moore County location while supplies last.
‘He’s losing a lot of business’
Channel 9’s Glenn Counts went to Carthage to talk to residents, business owners and officials about how they are dealing with the sudden, lengthy power outage.
The Muse family, owners of a local restaurant, are preparing to take a big hit as it closes.
“He’s going to lose a lot of business and he’s going to lose a lot of groceries, his food — he’s going to have to throw it out because it’s probably Thursday before we get the power back. Me personally, I’m going to work with him there, help him , so now I’m out of a job,” said employee Matthew Moose.
The FBI is investigating whether the power outage could be considered an act of domestic terrorism.
At a press conference Sunday, Duke Energy said it is looking into ways to partially restore power to some residents. Due to the amount of equipment that needs repair, no promises are made.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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