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Super Bowl Blackout Wasn’t Caused by Cyberattack

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is seen during a sudden power outage that lasted 34 minutes during the second half of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is seen during a sudden power outage that lasted 34 minutes during the second half of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Entergy Corp. has ruled out a cyberattack as a cause of the blackout that interrupted the Super Bowl.

“After a thorough and extensive review of our equipment and operating systems, Entergy has ruled out the possibility of the power outage being caused by a cyber event,” Michael Burns, a spokesman for New Orleans-based Entergy, said today in a telephone interview.

There was no Internet or remote computer access to the piece of equipment inside the stadium that sensed an abnormality in the electrical system and partially cut power to the Superdome, Burns said. The nine workers who were monitoring the so-called electrical switchgear equipment found no evidence of either a cyber or physical attack, Burns said.

Entergy, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District and SMG, the New Orleans Superdome manager, will hire an independent third-party expert to probe the cause of the power failure, the companies and district said today in a joint statement.

About half of the lights at the facility, which held 71,024 fans for the last NFL game of the season, went dark early in the third quarter of what is historically the most-watched television program in the U.S. every year. The failure halted play for 34 minutes.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had “no intelligence to indicate the power outage was the result of a cyberattack or a threat of terrorism of any kind,” Mary Beth Romig, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s New Orleans Division, said in an e-mail statement.

The blackout doesn’t fit the profile of an attack from a terrorist or nation-state, which probably would have been designed to cause widespread panic by shutting off all the lights, James Arlen, a utility security consultant at Leviathan Security Group, said in a telephone interview. If it was a cyber prank or activist hacker, they would “probably want to do something far more interesting like flicking the lights on and off,” Arlen said.

“There is a far greater chance that it was something like a rat fell and touched two conductors simultaneously and that was just enough to cause a blip in the power field,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Chediak in San Francisco at mchediak@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan Warren at susanwarren@bloomberg.net

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