Saturday, December 31, 2016

Russian Hackers Hit Vermont Utility: Putin's Revenge Against Bernie?

A computer at the Burlington Electric Department
in Vermont was apparently hacked by the Russians.
The electric grid wasn't touched, but this
still caused a stir.
OK, the headline on this post is ridiculous, I admit it. There probably isn't that grand a conspiracy.

Still, Vermont, and much of the nation, is talking today about the Russian hack on the little 'ole Burlington (Vermont) Electric Department.

Though the laptop computer that was hacked wasn't connected to the power grid, and the electricity is still flowing in Burlington and beyond  the news does make people nervous.

(The Washington Post last night incorrectly suggested that the hack did get into the power grid, but that's not true.)

I'm not even sure this qualifies as a full-blown hack. BED found the malware on the laptop, which is of course bad, but it didn't infect a bunch of other computers there. Just that one laptop.

Still, if hackers get into the electrical grids, they can stop pretty much everything. Imagine a nationwide blackout that can't be cured in a day or two. (Shudder.)

Even though the electricity still seems to be safe in this instance, a lot of people in the know are sounding the alarm.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy said in a statement:

"State-sponsored Russian hacking is a serious threat, and the attempts to penetrate the electric grid through a Vermont utility are the latest example.......

"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."

This hack all begs the question: Why Vermont? We're not exactly the biggest threat to Russia, though Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump aren't exactly popular in the liberal Green Mountain State.

My wingnut conspiracy theory, which I'm sure isn't true, is Burlington is the home of U.S,. Rep. Bernie Sanders, the former presidential candidate who has not at all been shy about eviscerating Donald Trump. Repeatedly.

Maybe Donald's buddy Vladimir had enough of Bernie's insults. No better revenge that shutting off the electricity (and in most cases heat) in the dead of a Vermont winter, right?

Of course, reality intrudes on this conspiracy theory. Putin and his minions probably have never even heard of Vermont. Hell, for all we know maybe this wasn't Russian hackers, I guess we'll see.

BED assures us the laptop that was infected has been isolated, and they're cooperating with state and federal authorities, so it turned out to be pretty easy to dodge the bullet.

According to The Guardian: this kind of thing may have happened before, and it does not appear that it was in direct retaliation for President Obama's sanctions against Russia for prior hacking during the election: .

It seems people in Burlington are taking this hack in fairly good humor. probably mostly because the electricity is still on during a morning that dipped to near 10 degrees.

"First they came for our elections, then they came for our electrons," quipped my good buddy Shay Totten of Burlington, on Twitter.

Totten also remarked on Twitter: "I wondered why latest @BurlingtonElec bill gave me the option to pay in rubles."

If, for some reason it turns out Trump had any part in the Burlington Electric Department hacking, which I doubt, maybe Burlington should retaliate against him.

After all, the Trump team never did pay Burlington for the extra overtime and costs with his rally in town last January, in which the future president just let the city pay for everything. Maybe BED can convince New York City to shut off the electricity to Trump Tower.

It's just a thought. 

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