As 2016 comes to a close, another blow has been dealt to US-Russian relations. A signature segment of code used in recent Russian hacking operations, dubbed Grizzly Steppe by President Obama, was detected within a Vermont utility company, reports The Washington Post:
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 underlines the vulnerabilities of the nation’s electrical grid. Officials in government and the utility industry regularly monitor the grid because it is highly computerized and any disruptions can have disastrous implications for the country’s medical and emergency services.
American officials, including one senior administration official, said they are not yet sure what the intentions of the Russians might have been. The incursion may have been designed to disrupt the utility’s operations or as a test to see whether they could penetrate a portion of the grid.
Officials said that it is unclear when the code entered the Vermont utility’s computers, and that an investigation will attempt to determine the timing and nature of the intrusion, as well as whether other utilities were similarly targeted.
The Vermont electrical company in question is the Burlington Electric Department. Their official Facebook account posted the following statement:
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. 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. We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding. Our team is working with federal officials to trace this malware and prevent any other attempts to infiltrate utility systems. We have briefed state officials and will support the investigation fully.
Regardless the timing or intent, Americans should be concerned about this possible attempted breach of the US power grid because it highlights both a weakness in the country’s infrastructure and tags Russia as being willing to meddle in more than just our political affairs.