No, Russia Has Not Infiltrated US Electric Grid

Uproar after malware found on Vermont utility company computer
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 31, 2016 7:40 AM CST
Updated Jan 1, 2017 4:32 PM CST
Russian Hackers Hit Vermont Utility
A Burlington Electric "smart meter."   (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

No, Russian hackers have not infiltrated the US electric grid. Reports were out Friday that malware was found on a laptop at Burlington Electric, a Vermont utility company, but some of them went so far as to say the hackers infiltrated the entire grid, leading the state's democratic governor to declare, "Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world's leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety." But the Washington Post has since updated its story to clarify: "An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the US electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid."

The malware was found after federal authorities released code associated with the "Grizzly Steppe" Russian hacking group to allow utilities to see whether they had been hacked, the Burlington Free Press reports. Burlington Electric says it alerted federal authorities as soon as the code was detected the laptop. It's not clear whether the hackers had any intention beyond testing their capabilities, but authorities say they are taking the cyberattack seriously. Though the code was not used to disrupt operations, experts tell the Post that it highlights vulnerabilities in the nation's electrical grid. But, as The Intercept points out, "There is zero evidence that Russian hackers were even responsible for the implanting of this malware on this single laptop. The fact that malware is 'Russian-made' does not mean that only Russians can use it; indeed, like a lot of malware, it can be purchased." (More Russian hackers stories.)

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