Vermont Utility Finds Malware Code Attributed To Russians

Dec 31, 2016

A Vermont electric utility has confirmed it found on one of its laptops a malware code the U.S. government says is used by Russian hackers.

The Burlington Electric Department says U.S. utilities were alerted by the Department of Homeland Security of a malware code used in Grizzly Steppe, the name Homeland Security has applied to a Russian campaign linked to recent hacks.

Burlington Electric says it detected the malware in a laptop not connected to its grid systems. The utility is working with federal officials to trace the malware and prevent other attempts to infiltrate utility systems.

In a statement Governor Peter Shumlin said "Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world's leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid."

Colchester-based electric company Green Mountain Power says its systems are secure. It said Friday a complete systems check found "no security concerns."

Russia has denied hacking U.S. systems.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Copyright 2016 . All rights reserved.

Full statements from Vermont utilities and  officials:

Burlington Electric Department Statement in Response to Reports of Russian Hacking of Vermont Electric Grid:  

"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."

Green Mountain Power Statement: 

"Green Mountain Power did not self-report a security incident. Our teams have done a complete systems check and found no security concerns. GMP was also recently thoroughly reviewed for safety by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The company will continue to rigorously monitor our system and remain vigilant."

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy

"State-sponsored Russian hacking is a serious threat, and the attempts to penetrate the electric grid through a Vermont utility are the latest example.  My staff and I were briefed by Vermont State Police Colonel Matthew Brimingham this evening.  This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides – this is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter.  That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly."

Governor Peter Shumlin's Statement:

“We’ve been in touch with the federal government, state officials, and Vermont’s utilities on this matter. Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world's leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety. This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling. I call upon the federal government to conduct a full and complete investigation of this incident and undertake remedies to ensure that this never happens again.”