Utilities  -  January 3, 2017

WSJ: Cyberattacks renew power grid security concern

While the premise of recent article reporting that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid was later proved incorrect, renewed alarm about the security of the country's infrastructure is not without merit, according to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal

Citing experts, WSJ reported Dec. 31 that Russian hackers linked to the breach of the Democratic National Committee earlier this year were also responsible for recent cyber attacks on utilities in Ukraine and a 2014 series of attacks against the U.S. energy industry. 

The story was published the same day The Washington Post originally reported that a code associated with a Russian hacking operation had been detected within a Vermont utility computer and penetrated the power grid. That story was later revised with an editor's note declaring that the hacked computer was not attached to the grid. 

The debate over what the mistake has done to hurt The Washington Post's credibility and concerns about the "mainstream media" aside, the information presented by The Journal outlines a real, renewed concern that the U.S. power grid stands exposed to cyber threats that could potentially take it down. The WSJ reported:

A team of Russian hackers that has been linked to this year’s cyberbreach of the Democratic National Committee was also behind a successful attack in 2015 on three different utilities in Ukraine that caused unprecedented blackouts, according to government and independent security experts. The same group is thought by those experts to be behind successful cyberattacks on several U.S. energy companies in 2014 that gave the hackers access to company industrial control networks. 

In late 2014, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported that there were 79 hacking incidents at energy companies that year, including a Russian malware called BlackEnergy that had been identified inside software that controls electrical turbines in the U.S., CNN reported at the time. The WSJ reported Dec. 30 that the team believed to be behind the Ukrainian energy company hacks used that same malware, which "functioned like a propped-open door that allowed them to conduct lengthy reconnaissance."  

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