The state-sanctioned Russian hackers suspected of meddling in the 2016 presidential election have reportedly managed to penetrate the U.S. electricity grid through a Vermont utility, raising already high concerns over domestic cyber security, officials said Friday.
While the hackers are not believed to have disrupted the utility’s operation, several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Washington Post that the penetration is alarming as any disruption to the nation’s highly computerized electrical grid could have disastrous consequences for medical and emergency services.
Government and industry officials were able to tie the hack to the Russian election hackers after a code associated with them was detected within the utility’s system. It was not immediately clear what the intentions of the hackers were, but it may have been a test to see whether they could successfully penetrate part of the grid, officials told The Post.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security concluded in a report Friday that the election hack — dubbed “Grizzly Steppe” — was made possible through so called “spearphishing” emails that trick recipients into revealing their passwords. The utility hack could have been carried out in a similar manner, according to officials.
Feds outline conclusion that Russia hacked U.S. election
This is not the first time Russia has been accused of hacking electricity grids.
In 2015, Russian hackers allegedly tied to the Kremlin destabilized Ukraine’s power grid, causing blackouts throughout that country’s capital. On Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, an outspoken Putin critic, claimed Russian hackers have launched over 6,500 cyber-attacks against Ukrainian state institutions in the past two months alone.
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson did not return a request for comment from the Daily News Friday evening.
The purported utility hack in Vermont comes as the Obama administration is gearing up to sanction Russia over its alleged role in interfering in the election to ensure a Donald Trump victory. The intelligence community’s conclusion that the so called “Grizzly Steppe” operation could only have been authorized by senior Russian officials tarnished an already tense relationship between President Obama and President Vladimir Putin.