A hacking code associated with a Russian hacking operation — dubbed Grizzly Steppe — was discovered in a Vermont utility by the Obama administration, said U.S. security officials. Although investigations have shown that the Russian had not used the code to disrupt communication and operations of the utility, such a discovery exposes the vulnerability of the American electric grid to cyber attacks.
On Friday, December 30, 2016, Burlington Electric said in a statement that the company “detected a malware code used in the Grizzly Steppe operation in a laptop that was not connected to the organization’s grid systems. The firm said it took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alert federal authorities”.
Government officials and the utility industry has always monitored the highly-computerized grid on a regular basis, as disruption to the power grid can lead to a great amount of damage to medical, defense and economic sectors. This once again strikes fear in the government that Russian hackers have been actively seeking means to penetrate America’s electric grid. This has raised great concerns in Vermont and prompted an immediate response from its officials.
Friday night, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) called on federal officials: “to conduct a full and complete investigation of this incident and undertake remedies to ensure that this never happens again.”
“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,” Shumlin said in a statement. “This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling.”
“This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides — this is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter,” Leahy said in a statement. “That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly.”
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said the attack shows how rampant Russian hacking is: “It’s systemic, relentless, predatory,” Welch said. “They will hack everywhere, even Vermont, in pursuit of opportunities to disrupt our country. We must remain vigilant, which is why I support President Obama’s sanctions against Russia and its attacks on our country and what it stands for.”
The DHS and FBI also publicly posted information about the malware Thursday as part of a joint analysis report, saying that the Russian military and civilian services’ activity “is part of an ongoing campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens.”
Against other acts of Russian’s hackers, such as the political motivated hacking of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in
In view of early sanctions against Russian hacking, many questions remain. What other system are the Russians in? What are their intents? What will future leaders do to make America safer?