Saturday, December 31, 2016

Russian To Judgement, Con't

No, that Friday night Washington Post headline about RUSSIA HACKED OUR POWER OMG is misleading.  Russia did not "penetrate" the US power grid in Vermont, that's not what actually happened.  What actually happened is that malware often used by Russian hacker groups was found on one laptop used by a Vermont power utility, and no damage was caused. Rich Lawler at Engadget explains:

Just a few days ago, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security released a report detailing their assessment that Russian hackers were behind a series of attacks on US agencies and citizens. While the Obama administration issued sanctions, code linked to those hackers has been shared with other agencies, and on Friday, the Burlington Electric Department found malware with a matching signature on one of its laptops. The discovery raises more questions than it answers, but with recent reports of Russian hackers attacking the power grid in Ukraine, it obviously has raised alerts all over.

The Washington Post first reported the finding, suggesting that Russian hackers had gained access to the electrical grid via the Vermont utility, however the company's statement says there's no indication that happened. In a statement, it said the laptop in question was not connected to grid systems. Vermont Public Service Commissioner Christopher Recchia told the Burlington Free Press that the grid was not in danger.

Because it's not clear exactly what matched, there's a possibility that it could be the result of a false positive, or shared code. Also, it's not clear when or how the malware got on the laptop. Based on those reasons, a number of security professionals on Twitter suggested waiting for more details before crediting this finding to Grizzly Steppe (a name attributed to the Russian attacks in Wednesday's report).

So no, this really is nothing more than bad, bad reporting from WaPo.  Surprise, right?  In the midst of a real crisis of confidence in our media, it's important to note that much of the damage is self-inflicted by journalism itself. Yeah, manufactured fake news is definitely a problem, but it only was able to be used so effectively by others against the US because American journalism is by and large awful, stupid garbage on a daily basis.

Keep that in mind as we head into the Trump regime era.

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