On April 16th, CBS San Jose local news stations reported that acts of “sabotage” occurred, with assailants cutting fiber optic cables, disabling 911 service, and shooting at a PG&E substation. Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith said the assailant(s) appeared to have the goal of “shutting down the system.” The assailant(s) fired more than 100 rounds from high-powered rifles at the transformers.
The attack happened around 1:30am in the area of Metcalf Road and Monterey Highway, southeast of San Jose city limits. Near Coyote Ranch Road, close by, bundled fiber optic cords were cut. South Bay customers lost landline and cell phone service. 911 call systems in the area were also knocked out. Gunfire was reported. The assailants breached the security fence and damaged thirteen transformers. Hazardous materials had also spilled, damaging transformers as well.
San Jose resident Leilani Zamora had no internet service, or home phone service. Her cell phone did not work. When she tried to make a call, she was met with the message, “Mobile network not available.”
“Freaks me out. It’s something that I would think that people would have access to,” Zamora said. “Then what happens in case of emergency? There’s nobody there to respond. That’s terrifying to not be able to reach your family or 911.”
On April 18th, AT&T offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of the assailant(s). The press release included a statement that due to the 911 terrorist attacks, networks such as these were declared “National Critical Infrastructures” and tampering carried a stiffened penalty.
Now 8 months later, the case has been taken out of the hands of local law enforcement and is under investigation by the FBI.
“Initially the attack was treated as vandalism and handled by local law enforcement,” said an FBI representative. “Investigators have reason to believe the timing of the attacks and the target selection indicate a higher level of planning and sophistication. FBI has noted the attack happened the day after the Boston Marathon bombing. At this time the FBI states they are following up on leads, and it may be an isolated incident. An official said the incident “did not involve a cyber attack,” but the severity of it requires a more thorough investigation, including forensic examination of the surveillance tapes.
“These were not amateurs taking potshots,” Mark Johnson, a former PG&E executive said at a press conference on grid security in November. “My personal view is that this was a dress rehearsal.”
Lawmakers and power executives came together for Grid-EX II drills on November 13th. The drills were designed to discover weaknesses and brainstorm solutions to protect the nations power grids.