Washington Post Walks Back Russian Hacking Report

Says hackers didn't appear to target Vermont utility
January 3, 2017 Updated: January 3, 2017

The Washington Post has retracted its story saying Russian hackers tried to breach a utility near Burlington, Vermont.

Last week, the paper said that Russian hackers infected the U.S. grid with malware.

But, “authorities say there is no indication of that so far [that Russians had penetrated the US electric grid],” according to an editor’s note that was attached to the first story. “The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid,” it read.

In another, later, article, the Post reported that U.S. officials are persisting in their investigation of a laptop that may have been infected.

An employee at Burlington Electric Department was checking his Yahoo email account last Friday and he set off an alert indicating that his computer was connected to a sketchy IP address that was associated with a Russian hacking operation that allegedly infiltrated the Democratic Party during the election.

CNN also quoted¬†officials from Burlington Electric, who announced the infected laptop wasn’t connected to the grid control systems. “We immediately isolated the machine, pulled it off the network, alerted federal authorities and began to work with them,” Burlington Electric General Manager Neale Lunderville said.

U.S. officials told the power plant that the IP address is found elsewhere in the U.S. and suggested “the company wasn’t being targeted by the Russians,” the Post wrote, adding that the traffic might be “benign.”

“The murkiness of the information underlines the difficulties faced by officials as they try to root out Grizzly Steppe and share with the public their findings on how the operation works,” the Post stipulated.

The report set off controversy among Vermont’s leadership, with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of being a “thug.”

“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,” said Shumlin.