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(Fact Check) Did Russia Try to Hack a Vermont Utility Company?

380px-question_markWe were asked to fact check if Russia tried to hack a Vermont electric company.  On Friday 12/30/16 the Washington Post ran a story that claimed Russian Hackers had penetrated the Vermont utility company, Burlington Electric.  In the original Washington Post story, unnamed sources were cited who claimed that a Russian malware code called “Grizzly Steppe” had penetrated the utility grid. After the Washington Post’s story, several other media sources came forward to refute the claim.  Glenn Greenwald of the The Intercept penned a harsh refutation to the Post’s claim.  Greenwald pointed out that the Burlington Free Press had been contacted by the utility company in which a representative stated: “The grid is not in danger,” Recchia said. “The utility flagged it, saw it, notified appropriate parties and isolated that one laptop with that malware on it.” The BBC also wrote a piece that indicated the malware was found on a single laptop and did not penetrate the network.  Further, the Burlington Electric Company posted on their website that the grid had not been compromised. On 12/31/16 the Washington Post corrected the story through an Editors Note that reads: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.”

Clearly the original Washington Post article was incorrect. The question though, is did the Russian’s place the malware on the laptop to penetrate the electric grid?  There is not an immediate answer to that question and an investigation is underway.  It is important to note that Russian malware can be bought by anyone and distributed freely on the internet, so there isn’t evidence at this time that the Russian’s are directly involved.

Rather than give a true/false rating we are stating that it is INCONCLUSIVE that Russia is involved at this time.

Sources are hyperlinked in the article.

Dave Van Zandt

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