Russian hackers were able to penetrate the defenses of several U.S. electric utilities in 2017, gaining access to control room systems that could have allowed them to force blackouts throughout the United States.
The Russian state-sponsored group referred to as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear is responsible for attacking “hundreds of victims” in 2017 and shows no sign of stopping at this time. DHS officials warned way back in 2014 that Russian hackers were gaining access to U.S. power systems. Since that time, the number of victims has increased from dozens to hundreds.
The Wall Street Journal reports that hackers used simple techniques such as spear-phishing emails and water-hole attacks to trick users into divulging their passwords. Once obtained, hackers could easily log into the power control systems for energy suppliers.
The Department of Homeland Security says it will conduct four briefings to determine how Russia is hacking our systems and to determine if it’s part of a bigger attack in the future.
How bad did the attack get? “They got to the point where they could have thrown switches,” a DHS official revealed.
Russia is already under fire for hacking the 2016 U.S. election and tensions heated up last week when Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel indicted 12 more Russian intelligence officers for their part in the attacks.
Russia denies meddling in the U.S. election but every major U.S. intelligence agency and many around the world disagree.