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Dec 31, 2007

EPO incident

If like me you've been wondering over the Christmas break "Just how many computer specialists does it take to reset an Emergency Power Off [EPO] button?", here's your answer from the latest RISKS mailing list digest:
"A Sacramento County computer technician has pleaded guilty to trying to shut down California's power grid by pushing a button marked "Emergency Power Off," authorities said. Lonnie Charles Denison, 33, of South Natomas, admitted Friday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento that he went into a room at the Independent System Operator's data center in Folsom (Sacramento County) on April 15, broke a glass cover and pushed the button, prosecutors said. Denison, a contract employee at the data center, was upset with his employer, authorities said.

The ISO oversees electricity purchases and distribution. Denison prevented the data center from communicating to the electricity market for about two hours, leaving the electrical power grid vulnerable to shortages, Matthew St. Amant, a California Highway Patrol officer assigned to an FBI task force, wrote in an affidavit. No blackout occurred because the incident - which cost $14,000 for 20 computer specialists to repair - happened on a Sunday, investigators said. Denison was identified by surveillance-tape footage and his security-access code, the affidavit said. He pleaded guilty to attempted damage of an energy facility, a felony. He is to be sentenced Feb. 29 by U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell."

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