Russian Hacking Code Found On Vermont Utility Computer

UPDATE: 12/31/16 3:50 AM PST: This story and headline have been updated for clarity. 

Code fingerprints of Russian hackers found on US utility company computer

Russian hackers infiltrated the systems of a US utility company, the Washington Post reported Friday. As part of its response to the Russian hacking of the DNC that 17 US intelligence agencies reportedly concluded was designed to help Donald Trump get elected president, the Barack Obama administration shared the malware code used by a known Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe. That code was discovered by Vermont utility officials in a laptop.

Although there is no evidence at the moment that the apparent infiltration by Russian hackers into Vermont’s system has been used in any malicious way, it underlines key American vulnerabilities to Russian operations that are far more brazen than most realized until the events of 2016. If Russian intelligence has access to the American electrical system, or the know-how to hack it again, it could be used for political blackmail.

Earlier this month, Russian hackers allegedly knocked out power in three stations in Ukraine. Reverb Press reported,

The apparent coming alignment of Putin and Trump comes at an alarming time for Europe. This week in Ukraine, power companies were knocked offline, plunging hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians into darkness, Defense One reported. One company’s director said the company was “99 percent” certain that a hacking or cyber attack had taken out three substations. Officials later identified a shadowy Russian organization as the likely culprit.

The cyber attack coincides with renewed fighting in the east of Ukraine, where Russian backed separatists took over provinces following Russia’s “hybrid invasion” and annexation of Crimea.

Related: Ominous Implications Lurk In Trump, Putin Nuclear Remarks As Russia Cyber Attacks Neighbor

This was not the first time Russia had done this in Ukraine. The ability of Russian hackers could knock out key systems in a country is an ominous sign of the future of diplomacy and warfare, especially if Vladimir Putin continues to be emboldened in the realm of cyber espionage. In Ukraine, Russia has used cyber attacks to gain military advantage for pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine. In America, Russia could threaten to sabotage critical US systems if Congress tries to stymie Trump’s radical restructuring of America’s foreign policy from rivalry with Russia to obsequiousness to Putin. The Washington Post observes that medical and emergency services could be highly vulnerable to electrical sabotage.

Photo by Toru Yamanaka – Pool/Getty Images

Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master's degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.