Island Energy: Gas outage not a cyber attack but cannot rule it out

Jo Cox, CEO of Island Energy. (36770968)

THE gas supply to thousands of customers could be restored today, or next week, depending on which method of reconnection is chosen by Island Energy.

The utility is currently evaluating if it can switch the mains supply back on without the need for engineers to visit each one of its 4,000 domestic customers.

To avoid that scenario, which could take up to eight days before every property is reconnected, the company is asking all households on gas to turn a lever next to their meter to shut off supply and register that they have done this.

If people respond, Island Energy say that the mains network – which was shut down on Saturday because of a software glitch – could be back up and running today.

However, if it considers the risk of a “self-restoration” to be too high, the company will opt for the more protracted “engineer-restoration”.

Island Energy chief executive Jo Cox said: “My key message is that customers can help us with the speed of restoration that by pulling that lever and registering that they’ve pulled it. It’s really easy and there is a video on our website showing how it’s done.”

The chief executive also admitted that they had been “too slow” with their communications over the weekend, and blamed the Island-wide shutdown on “rogue code”.

She said: “We don’t access our controllers, we have a third-party supplier, and only they can access the controllers. So those controllers are not on the web, so no one can access them, so it’s not hacking, it’s not a cyber-attack.”

Mrs Cox said all three controllers “went at the same time” which “knocked out the the power and the plant shut down” – leading it to go into fail-safe mode. After several hours of investigations, “we found a rogue code”, said Mrs Cox, adding: “We don’t know how the code got there, whether it’s always been sat there in the background, and it’s suddenly surfaced.”

She said: “There was no issue with the gas at all. We monitor our gas composition all the time. And those control units when we’ve tested them back on, we know it is one of the control panels, but the gas consumption is correct.

“We don’t believe this a cyber attack but we can’t rule out that when we were doing the last update, someone didn’t hack in and do put the code there and it was unnoticed, but, personally, I don’t think that’s what’s happened.”

Asked whether the company would pay out compensation to affected customers, Mrs Cox said: “The first thing on my mind is let’s restore, then what I want to do is how long were people off for. Within our terms and conditions for domestic customers, it’s clear that compensation isn’t part of those terms and conditions. However, if you’ve been affected, I’ll be looking at compensation on a case-by-case basis, okay. A lot of people still have got hot water.”

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