JEA victim of cyber attack

Jacksonville-owned utility's website, email, automated phone systems down

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - JEA's website, Internet communications and automated phone systems are down due to what the city-owned utility is calling a denial-of-service attack.

Spokeswoman Gerri Boyce said that has been inundated with data since midnight Sunday. Visits to the website return various error messages, including that there are network connectivity problems or the site is unavailable or too busy. Company emails are also affected.

Boyce said the attack has also taken down JEA's email and automated phone systems.

"What this person is doing or however it is, they are pushing tons and tons of data through the system, so it closes down," Boyce said. "It is an attack on our system."

Payments or electric and water bills are being accepted at JEA's downtown office, the tax collector's office, Winn-Dixie stores and other third-party locations. JEA customer care employees are available by phone, but wait times may be longer than usual.

The downtown JEA office was flooded Tuesday with concerned customers who found it impossible to pay their bills or review their accounts online.

"This morning when I tried to log on, I had to call, and they said everything is down, phone systems, billing systems," JEA customer Lori Dotson said.

Boyce said orders for disconnects due to non-payment have been suspended during the outage.

Boyce said customers' personal information is not in jeopardy as a result of the security breach, but customers are skeptical.

"Yeah, I don't think anything is safe these days," Kenneth Smith said.

"It would be highly unlikely that internal data has been compromised," computer expert Christopher Hamer said. "This is the equivalent to trying to have a conversation with someone right in front of you and having five or six people yelling at you with a bullhorn."

Hamer said cyber attacks are remotely controlled to assault a website. He suspects a disgruntled JEA customer may be to blame.

"It is criminal, yes, but it's not difficult to do," Hamer said. "It's offered as a service in the dark belly of the Internet."

As of Tuesday afternoon, JEA did not have an estimated day or time its systems will be operational again.

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