Russian hackers successfully infiltrated U.S. electric utilities last year, the Department of Homeland Security said Monday, according to a report by Business Insider.
The agency said in an unclassified webinar that the hacking affected “hundreds of victims” and gave the hackers the ability to cause widespread blackouts.
The Russians used phony websites and phishing scams to gain access to corporate networks.
“They got to the point where they could have thrown switches,” said Jonathan Homer, the chief of industrial-control-system analysis for DHS.
The hackers, who are associated with the Russian state-sponsored group Dragonfly, began their assault on U.S. power companies in 2016 and continued through 2017. The infiltration efforts are probably ongoing, DHS officials said.
“While hundreds of energy and non-energy companies were targeted, the incident where they gained access to the industrial control system was a very small generation asset that would not have had any impact on the larger grid if taken offline,” said Lesley Fulop, a DHS spokeswoman, in a statement, as reported by NBC News. “Over the course of the past year as we continued to investigate the activity, we learned additional information which would be helpful to industry in defending against this threat.”
Earlier this month, 12 Russian intelligence agents were indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of hacking democrats and the Democratic National Committee before the 2016 presidential election.