DMEA grapples with 'targeted effort' on its internal network data; power and internet said to be unaffected

Delta-Montrose Electric Association is investigating a "targeted effort" to access data on its internal networks. (Montrose Daily Press file photo)

An attempt on Delta-Montrose Electric Association’s internal network has taken some of the power cooperative’s operations offline — and worried customers — although power and internet service remain intact.

The power grid was not affected, nor was the fiber network of DMEA’s wholly owned subsidiary, Elevate, per the co-op.

DMEA learned last Sunday of a “targeted effort” to access data on its internal network systems. The particulars are not being divulged at this time, as a forensic investigation continues, CEO Alyssa Clemsen Roberts said.

“We have an outside organization we have hired to conduct an analysis of our networking systems,” she said Monday, Nov. 15, after DMEA put out a news release to address the situation.

Clemsen Roberts declined to say whether a ransom demand or ransomware was involved. “That’s confidential at this stage in the investigation,” she said.

She also said DMEA is not currently working with any law enforcement agencies.

“Our grid is strong and our fiber network is strong. We are in the middle of the investigation on this. … Just be patient with us as we work through this,” said Clemsen Roberts.

Convenience items such as the online SmartHub and bill pay options are not available at this time; accordingly, DMEA is holding off on late fees and disconnection for nonpayment.

DMEA Board President Kyle Martinez said customers can still make payments by mailing in a check.

Although the payment processing system is affected, along with DMEA’s phone and email system, the co-op is still able to batch and deposit payments received by mail or in its drop boxes. These will be retroactively applied to accounts when the network is restored. (Be sure to include payment stub from bill or a note with account information.)

In Montrose, payment drop boxes are located at both City Markets and at Safeway. There are also drop boxes in Paonia at Don’s Market; at the Cedaredge Mercantile, and outside of the Montrose and Delta offices — 11925 6300 Road in Montrose and the Read Service Center, 21191 H75 Road, Delta.

Customers speedily noticed that electronic bill-pay was not available.

“I kept checking,” said Van Smith. “I have automatic pay. I started to get worried, so I wrote a check to send to them, in case the system went down.”

Paul Hooley and his household were awaiting the final step to initiate their home solar array. Inspections were complete and Hooley had applied for a net meter, only to see it put off.

“We had unfortunate timing on our part,” he said, referring to the delay. “ … Then, boom, this hits.”

Hooley said he was told without the computer system up and running, DMEA can’t initiate his solar array.

“It’s just sitting on my roof, waiting for this net meter. It’s kind of frustrating, but at least when they called me and explained, I understand why it’s not being done,” he said.

DMEA in the news release issued after the Montrose Daily Press began seeking information said there is no indication that sensitive customer or employee data were compromised. The comprehensive assessment now underway may take weeks to complete. The cooperative told the public it is working hard to restore its networks and full service.

“It’s an unfortunate event, but we’re working to get to the bottom of everything that’s taken place and get the systems up and running,” Martinez said Monday.

“Right now, our bill pay system, our Smart Hub and a lot of our convenience items are not functioning, but we are able to keep the power going and the internet flowing.”

Martinez said he expects an update sometime later in the week as regarding the timeline for restoring full function.

“There’s a lot of work going on to get us back to normal operations. It’s kind of like one day at a time at this moment,” he said.

“If everyone can stay patient with us, we’ll get our systems back up and running and get caught up,” Clemsen Roberts said.

The network issue arose at a time when DMEA had closed its offices to the public because of COVID-19 concerns. This decision was made separately of reported attempt on DMEA’s internal data. The offices are closed to foot traffic through at least Nov. 29 and many employees are working remotely.

DMEA core services are intact. Members can report power outages by calling 877-687-3632. Elevate technical support is available 24/7 at 844-386-8744 or support@elevateinternet.com.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

Better than a comments section

Discuss the news on NABUR,
a place to have local conversations


The Neighborhood Alliance for Better Understanding and Respect
A site just for our local community
Focused on facts, not misinformation
Free for everyone

Join the community
What's NABUR?