US electric utilities controlled by Russian hackers

Russian hackers were able to gain access into the control rooms of U.S. electric utilities last year, which could have possibly caused blackouts, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The hack was carried out by a shadowy Russian state-sponsored group previously known as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear. They broke into the networks by penetrating into the networks that belonged to a third party vendor who had very cordial relationships with the power companies, Department of Homeland Security official in a press briefing.

"They got to the point where they could have thrown switches" to disrupt the flow power, Jonathan Homer, chief of industrial-control-system analysis for DHS, told the Journal.

The disruption in power flow was first detected in 2016 and continued throughout 2017, the Journal reported.

Since 2014, DHS has been giving alert to various utility executives about the Russian group’s threat to critical infrastructure. However, many companies are still there who do not know they have been compromised, because hackers use credentials of actual employees to get inside the utilities.

“They’ve been intruding into our networks and are positioning themselves for a limited or widespread attack,” said Michael Carpenter, former deputy assistant secretary of defense. “They are waging a covert war on the West.”