Russian Hacking Malware Found on Vermont Utility Computer

The computer was not connected to the grid system.

ByABC News
December 31, 2016, 7:03 PM
An employee walking behind a glass wall with coding symbols at the headquarters of Internet security giant Kaspersky in Moscow, October 17, 2016.
An employee walking behind a glass wall with coding symbols at the headquarters of Internet security giant Kaspersky in Moscow, October 17, 2016.
AFP/Getty Images

— -- Malware associated with Russian hackers was found on a computer belonging to a utility company in Vermont, according to the company.

After being alerted last night by the Department of Homeland Security about malware code used in Grizzly Steppe, Russia's hacking campaign against U.S. political institutions, Burlington Electric Department performed a scan, the utility said in a statement.

"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," the statement said. "We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding."

The laptop was not connected to the Vermont Electric Cooperative’s grid systems, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Todd Breassdale said today.

"While our analysis continues, we currently have no information that indicates that the power grid was penetrated in this cyber incident," Breassdale said, adding that the organization took immediate steps to isolate the laptop and alerted federal authorities.

It is unclear what the intent was in delivering the malware.

Vermont Democratic Congressman Peter Welch said the discovery of the malware code is further evidence of "predatory" steps by Russia against the U.S.

"This attack shows how rampant Russian hacking is. It's systemic, relentless, predatory," Welch said in a statement. "They will hack everywhere, even Vermont, in pursuit of opportunities to disrupt our country."

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, also a Democrat, said, "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."

Other utilities in Vermont said Friday that they were not impacted.

Vermont Electric Cooperative, which has about 32,000 customers said in a statement Friday, "In regard to the recent Department of Homeland Security malware code alert, VEC has no evidence of a threat to our system."

And Green Mountain Power, which serves about 265,000, said it wasn't affected either. "GMP did not self-report a security incident," the utility said in a statement. "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."

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin said his office is in touch with federal officials and the state's utilities.

"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," he said in a statement.

He said the hacking episode should highlight the urgent need for the federal government to "vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling."

ABC News' Mike Levine, Darren Reynolds and Sarah Shales contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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