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WashPost: Russian Hackers Breach US Electrical Grid Via Vermont Utility

Image: WashPost: Russian Hackers Breach US Electrical Grid Via Vermont Utility

(MAXIM MARMUR/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 30 Dec 2016 09:44 PM

Russian hackers have penetrated a utility company in Vermont, Obama administration officials said on Friday.

A code associated with the Russian hacking group named "Grizzly Steppe" by the White House was identified by the utility's officials and reported to federal officials earlier Friday, The Washington Post reports.

The Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations of the utility, the officials told the Post, and they were not sure which utility company was breached.

Officials from two large utilities in Vermont, Green Mountain Power and Burlington Electric, could not be immediately reached for comment by the Post.

In addition, Vermont has a wholesale distributor, VELCO, or the Vermont Electric Power Co.

Several other smaller co-ops, including Vermont Electric Co-op and Washington Electric Co-op, are also used — primarily in rural areas, and they are connected to the statewide power grid, the Post reports.

Penetrating the nation's electrical grid represents a potentially serious vulnerability, the officials said.

Government and industry executives monitor the grid regularly because it is highly computerized — and any disruption could severely disrupt a broad array of services across the United States.

The reported breach comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he would not retaliate against American diplomats after President Barack Obama issued executive orders that expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two compounds in response to hacks of the Democratic National Committee and other party organizations.

President-elect Donald Trump praised Putin on Twitter for his "great move" and has questioned intelligence reports on hacking activities by Moscow.

Trump will receive an intelligence briefing next week on the hacking.

Vermont utility officials checked its power grid against the "Grizzly Steppe" malware code provided to corporate executives nationwide by the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and the director of National Intelligence, the Post reports.

The corporate officers were from 16 different industries, including the financial, utility and transportation sectors, a senior administration official said.

In addition, DHS and the FBI also included the malware information as part of a joint analysis report released on Thursday.

The agencies said in the report that the activities of the Russian military and civilian services agencies was "part of an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens."

According to the document, hackers tied to Russia used fake emails that duped their recipients into revealing passwords.

The hackers used this approach in the DNC hack, which led to hundreds of emails being released by Wikileaks during the presidential campaign.

Officials from DHS and the Energy Department declined to comment Friday, the Post reports.

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Russian hackers have penetrated a utility company in Vermont, Obama administration officials said on Friday.
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Friday, 30 Dec 2016 09:44 PM
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