WAPO Admits: Russia Didn't Hack US Electrical Grid

The laptop was flagged on December 29 due to the detection of suspicious traffic. The Washington Post reported, "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 USA officials".

But now, according to a newly published story by the Washington Post and a statement from Burlington Electric, an attack by the Russian government on Vermont's electric grid is not probable in this instance.

"We acted quickly to scan all computers in our system for the malware signature", said Neale Lunderville, general manager of the Burlington Electric Department in a website message to the utility's customers and residents. The utility reportedly found previously undetected malware on the one laptop, but nothing connected to Grizzly Steppe.

Federal authorities shared the malware code with executives from 16 major sectors of the US economy, including the financial, utility and transportation industries, officials said.

Federal officials have indicated that the type of internet traffic related to the malicious cyber activity has also been observed elsewhere in the country.

On Friday, an erroneous report in The Washington Post claimed Russian hackers had infiltrated the USA power grid through an unnamed Vermont utility (Energywire, Jan. 4).

According to a follow-up story in the Post, unnamed federal authorities leaked news of the investigation "without having all the facts and before law enforcement officials were able to investigate further". Lunderville said national news outlets jumped on the story so fast that he had trouble figuring out where the inaccurate information was originating. But did the Washington Post actually set the record straight on this highly hyperbolic headline and subsequently shifting tale, particularly in terms of how they handled it?

Sure, it wasn't true, but as the Washington Post headlines make clear, it makes for a more interesting sounding story than "Russia didn't hack U.S. power grid" would. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued a statement condemning the attack.

Often, viruses can get onto computers through bogus emails that trick users into opening a malicious file, he said.

"We were just trying to stop this onslaught of bad information from continuing to push out further and further, but it's wonderful: Here's one story that gets posted at 8 o'clock on a Friday night, and within two hours it's an global press story entirely based on wrong information", Lunderville said.

This story was first posted online January 3, 2016, and will be updated.

Pro-Trump forces, like the conservative aggregation site Drudge Report, are calling the story "fake news". In essence, the Washington Post report claimed this was evidence that the Russians possibly penetrated the United States power grid.

It wasn't clear whether the small utility was specifically targeted or why, or when the laptop was compromised.

Eleven months later, however, the Department of Justice said JPMorgan Chase wasn't hacked by Russians, but two Israeli guys living in Florida, plus an American accomplice who spent much of his time in Moscow and Tel Aviv, as part of an alleged pump-and-dump stock scheme (see Report: Spammers Tied To JPMorgan Chase Hack).

In December, the Washington Post published an article citing a secret Central Intelligence Agency report, which claimed that Russian Federation deliberately tried to help Donald Trump to become the next US President.

The Post also refused Tuesday to name the source that gave two Post reporters bad information on Friday.

  • Essie Rivera