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WaPo Issues Major ‘Editor’s Note’ to Clear up Report Claiming Russians Hacked US Power Grid


washington post via shutterstockA report recently published in the Washington Post late Friday night boldly claimed a code that the Obama administration has essentially tied to a Russian backed computer hacking operation had been found inside the systems of a Vermont utility company.  In essence, the Washington Post report claimed this was evidence that the Russians possibly penetrated the United States power grid.  Subsequent reporting, however, now shows that original WaPo report seems to be wrong.

The original report blew up on social media, with many prominent media figures highlighting it as evidence that Putin was at best, not friend of the United States.

Politicians, including Sen. Patrick Leahy put out a stern statement based on the report that said, “State-sponsored Russian hacking is a serious threat, and the attempts to penetrate the electric grid through a Vermont utility are the latest example.”

But some skeptics, including Glenn Greenwald, began pushing back at the report by Saturday morning, suggesting not only the reaction to the report was overblown, but that that reporting itself was overblown.

Greenwald then explained what actually happened, writing:

There was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid.” The truth was undramatic and banal. Burlington Electric, after receiving a Homeland Security notice sent to all U.S. utility companies about the malware code found in the DNC system, searched all their computers and found the code in a single laptop that was not connected to the electric grid.

He then points out that The Post apparently did not even contact the utility company for comment on its story.  Instead, a spokesman for the utility told the local media outlet the Burlington Free Press that “[m]alware was found at the utility in a computer that was not connected to the operation of the grid.”

Vermont Public Service Commissioner Christopher Recchia further explained, “The grid is not in danger . . . The utility flagged it, saw it, notified appropriate parties and isolated that one laptop with that malware on it.”

So, to recap:

After the Washington Post set social media and Washington, D.C., on fire with a report claiming the Russian’s possibly gained access to the nation’s power grid, it now appears that is not exactly what happened.

In fact, the WaPo finally issued an “Editor’s Note” to its original report early Sunday afternoon, presumably in response to the questions raised by critics of its original reporting:

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. reach out to the WaPo for comment on the change to the story and we will update our own story when we receive a response.

[image via Gil C / Shutterstock]

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