Blaster blackout? Sophos questions rumours that internet worm was responsible for North American power cuts

August 15, 2003 Sophos Press Release

Sophos has questioned rumours circulating on the internet that the W32/Blaster-A worm may have been responsible for yesterday's power blackouts in North America.

The power cuts, which struck across North Eastern America and areas of Canada, affected an estimated 50 million people in New York, Detroit, Toronto and Ottawa as well as other cities. According to reports, thousands of people were trapped in subways and elevators as officials battled to bring power back online.

Amidst confusion about the cause of the power outage, rumours spread that the fast-spreading Blaster internet worm may have been responsible. However, Sophos believes this is unlikely.

"Critical computers running power stations are unlikely to be linked to the internet and vulnerable to this kind of attack," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos Anti-Virus.

Nine nuclear reactors in four US states were said to have been taken offline, and the power outage was described as the largest in US history.

"Of course, the power cut may have affected some users' ability to ensure their computers are protected against the worm. Many people will have gone home last night planning to update their home computers with the patch from Microsoft and ensure their anti-virus was up-to-date," continued Cluley. "It is important that all computer users ensure their systems are patched as soon as possible."