A recent Russian malware attack turned out to be smaller than many thought. Yes, the malware was discovered, but no, the electrical grid is not affected.
Russia is not about to take down the U.S. electrical grid through Vermont’s system as previously reported.
The whole rumor started in the midst of the 2016 Presidential elections when it was reported that Russia was hacking the results. The allegation was that Russian President Vladimir Putin had approved the altering of electronic ballots in Donald Trump’s favor, a possibility which was made even more plausible when the two turned out to be friendly on Twitter after Trump won. Rumor spawned speculation, and some notorious “fake news” sites took advantage of unsubstantiated information to spread false stories.
This creation of fake news had become an epidemic which led to tightening of regulations over what is news and what isn’t for even the most dependable sources. The latest of these sources which fell victim to a hoax was the Washington Post, which falsely claimed that Russian hackers had planted a virus called Grizzly Steppe on Vermont’s electrical grid. The result of this was a kind of mass panic as news spread that Russia was planning to take down the electrical grid in the United States.
The question some may have asked at that point was why Russian hackers would do that shortly after President-elect Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin had started praising each other on social media. As the fictional character from Shakespeare’s King Henry IV Part I might say about this, “the game is afoot.” This means something isn’t right and the search for the truth is underway.
It is true that the U.S. electrical grid is practically a luxury turned necessity now, so an attack on it from a potential enemy would be nearly catastrophic. We would no longer have light without fire, and the internet would cease to exist, as would almost all communication. We would be thrown back into the era of the settlers.
Grizzly Steppe, or a piece of code related to it, was indeed found inside Vermont’s Burlington Electric Department, but representatives have amended this discovery, according to Burlington Free Press.
“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.”
Not everyone was so quick to look into it further, as Governor Peter Shumlin took the opportunity to slam the Russian President on his alleged attempt. Calling Putin a “thug,” Peter took a similar route to Fox and CBS News in believing this report. Another report by Yahoo News seemed eerily similar, though it may not be related at all, that Russian personnel have evacuated compounds in Maryland and New York. The story claims that President Barack Obama had ordered the evacuation of these compounds in retaliation for the alleged Russian hacking during the 2016 elections.
The two stories may not be related beyond the idea of Russian malware attacks.
This is another example of how failure to confirm facts can lead to fake news and mass hysteria, but rest assured that the U.S. electrical grid is in no known danger. The malware was found on one laptop, completely disconnected from the system. It does not mean that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning to take down the entire U.S. electrical grid using Vermont’s system.
No other utility companies in Vermont were affected either.
The real question might be how the code reached that laptop, and who put it there if it’s not connected to the system at Vermont’s Burlington Electric Department.
[Featured Image by ronstik / Shutterstock.com]