Fake news? The Russians did not hack the U.S. power grid

Fake news? The Russians did not hack the U.S. power grid
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The Washington Post caused a mild social media stir Friday when they posted a story alleging that the Russians had hacked the U.S. power grid via a utility company in Vermont.

In a story boasting the ominous headline, “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, officials say,” the Post said the following:

A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials.

While the Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a security matter, the discovery underscores the vulnerabilities of the nation’s electrical grid. And it raises fears in the U.S. government that Russian government hackers are actively trying to penetrate the grid to carry out potential attacks.

However, by late Friday night, after The Burlington Electric Department was finally contacted and could release a statement — something the Post didn’t obtain before publishing their piece — the headline had changed to something less ominous due to the utility company’s statement.

The Daily Caller reports that the statement read as follows:

“Last night, U.S. utilities were alerted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of a malware code used in Grizzly Steppe, the name DHS has applied to a Russian campaign linked to recent hacks,” a spokesman for the Burlington Electric Department said. “We acted quickly to scan all computers in our system for the malware signature. We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to our organization’s grid systems.”

The Vermont Public Service Commissioner Christopher Recchia told The Burlington Free Press, “The grid is not in danger.”

The Post has since changed the headline of their piece to read, “Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say.”

Charges of “fake news” have been leveled throughout the 2016 election season as being responsible for inflating or lying about both candidates depending on the source of the report. Concerns about it became so pervasive that media giants such as Facebook and Google vowed to research and begin addressing how news is shared on their platforms with the intent of controlling the spread of false reports.

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