Washington Post Screws Up, Says Russians Hacked Vermont's Electrical Grid. Oops.

The Washington Post ended 2016 on a weak note, as they published a piece about Russia hacking Vermont's electrical grid that turned out to be false.

The piece, titled "Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say," was published on New Year's Eve and featured quotes from prominent Democrat officials in the state giving apocalyptic warnings about Russia's activities:

“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,” [Gov. Peter] Shumlin said in a statement. “This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling.”

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said he was briefed on the attempts to penetrate the electric grid by Vermont State Police on Friday evening. “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,” Leahy said in a statement. “That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly.”

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said the attack shows how rampant Russian hacking is. “It’s systemic, relentless, predatory,” Welch said . “They will hack everywhere, even Vermont, in pursuit of opportunities to disrupt our country. We must remain vigilant, which is why I support President Obama’s sanctions against Russia and its attacks on our country and what it stands for.”

There was just one problem–Russia didn't actually hack Vermont's electrical grid, as the Post's headline implies. A Russian hacking code known as Grizzly Steppe was found in a laptop, but the laptop itself was not connected to the grid.

"There is no indication that either our electric grid or customer information has been compromised," Burling Electric General Manager Neale F. Lunderville said in a statement. "Media reports stating that Burlington Electric was hacked or that the electric grid was breached are false."

An editor's note was added to the Post's piece that states: "An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid."

"There is no indication that either our electric grid or customer information has been compromised."

Burling Electric General Manager Neale F. Lunderville

The Washington Post ended 2016 by proving that fake news is indeed a problem, as it stems from outlets like the Washington Post, and they will likely continue to prove that in 2017.

(h/t: National Review)

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