Did Russia Hack US Power Grid?

Security experts warn that malware distributors are using now less suspicious file types. Photo : TheStreet/YouTube

With the help of federal authorities, a power company in Burlington is investigating the discovery of malware connected to code allegedly used by Russian hackers on a laptop used by someone at the Burlington Electric Department.

Russian Hackers Attack US Power Grid

According to The Washington Post, the malware discovered on a laptop used in the Burlington Electric Department, a municipally-owned utility, is the same as the one used by Russian hackers to interfere with the presidential election. According to TownHall, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that Russia had compromised the U.S. power grid by using the utility company in Vermont. However, once the issue has been further investigated in The Burlington Electric Department, it turns out the situation less threatening as first was thought, according to Burlington Express.

Vermont Public Service Commissioner Christopher Recchia has released a statement on Friday, Dec. 31, explaining what happened. According to Rutland Herald, in the same statement released on Friday, Mike Kanarick, director of customer care, community engagement and communications for Burlington Electric, explained that U.S. utility companies were alerted by the DHS on Thursday of a malware code. The malware is the same that has been used in Grizzly Steppe, the Russian campaign linked to recent hacks during the presidential elections.

Kanarick said that the security experts at the Burlington Electric have acted quickly to scan all computers in the company's system for the malware signature. The malware has been found in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop that is not connected to the power grid systems. Immediate action has been taken in order isolate the laptop and the federal officials have been alerted of the finding.

Various Reactions To The Latest Russian Hacking Attempt

According to the same statement, federal officials and the staff at Burlington Electric are working together in order to trace the malware found and to prevent any further attempts to infiltrate the U.S. utility systems. Burlington Electric will fully support the investigation and Vermont officials were also notified, according to Kanarick.

Todd Breasseale, assistant secretary for public affairs for the Department of Homeland Security, provided in a release from Friday an executive summary of a joint analysis of Grizzly Steppe by the FBI and the department. Breassale said that Russia's civilian and military intelligence services engaged in aggressive cyber attack operations targeting the U.S. citizens and the government. The target was information theft from think tanks, political organizations, universities, corporations, critical infrastructure entities and government organizations.

At its turn, the cyber-security company Norton describes on its website the process used by Grizzly Steppe called "spear phishing." This is an email that appears to be from a known business or individual. But in fact,the email is from the hackers who try to steal sensitive information such as passwords, credit card and bank account numbers and other financial information.

Gov. Peter Shumlin said in a statement that the federal government has been in contact with Vermont officials about the apparent hacking attempt. Shumlin added that all Americans should be outraged that Vladimir Putin has been attempting to hack the electric grid that is crucial for supporting the economy, quality-of-life, safety and health. 

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