Fake News of Russian Cyber Attack On Vermont Utility Goes Viral Before Truth Gets Its Boots On

Washington Post: Russian Hackers Penetrated U.S. Electricity Grid Through a Utility in Vermont, U.S. Officials Say

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 of the utility, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a security matter, the penetration of the nation’s electrical grid is significant because it represents a potentially serious vulnerability. Government and utility industry officials regularly monitor the nation’s electrical grid because it is highly computerized and any disruptions can have disastrous implications for the function of 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 penetration may have been designed to disrupt the utility’s operations or as a test by the Russians to see whether they could penetrate a portion of the grid.

While it is unclear which utility reported the incident, there are just two major utilities in Vermont, Green Mountain Power and Burlington Electric.

Updated: Later, the Washington Post added an editor’s note to the article, admitting that its key assertion was not true:

Forbes: “Fake News” And How The Washington Post Rewrote Its Story On Russian Hacking Of The Power Grid

On Friday the Washington Post sparked a wave of fear when it ran the breathless headline “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, U.S. officials say.” The lead sentence offered “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” and continued “While the Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations of the utility, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a security matter, the penetration of the nation’s electrical grid is significant because it represents a potentially serious vulnerability.”

Yet, it turns out this narrative was false and as the chronology below will show, illustrates how effectively false and misleading news can ricochet through the global news echo chamber through the pages of top tier newspapers that fail to properly verify their facts.

From Russian hackers burrowed deep within the US electrical grid, ready to plunge the nation into darkness at the flip of a switch, an hour and a half later the story suddenly became that a single non-grid laptop had a piece of malware on it and that the laptop was not connected to the utility grid in any way.

The Intercept: Russia Hysteria Infects WashPost Again: False Story About Hacking U.S. Electric Grid

The Washington Post on Friday reported a genuinely alarming event: Russian hackers have penetrated the U.S. power system through an electrical grid in Vermont.

The media reactions, as Alex Pfeiffer documents, were exactly what one would expect: hysterical, alarmist proclamations of Putin’s menacing evil:

Our Russian “friend” Putin attacked the U.S. power grid. https://t.co/iAneRgbuhF

— Brent Staples (@BrentNYT) December 31, 2016

The Post’s story also predictably and very rapidly infected other large media outlets. Reuters thus told its readers around the world: “A malware code associated with Russian hackers has reportedly been detected within the system of a Vermont electric utility.”
 
What’s the problem here? It did not happen.

 

from GTM Solar https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Fake-News-of-Russian-Cyber-Attack-On-Vermont-Utility-Goes-Viral-Before-Trut

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