Russian hackers 'penetrated the networks of U.S. electric utilities'

Russian hackers gained access to the networks of U.S. electric utilities last year, which could have allowed them to cause blackouts, according to federal government officials, who said the campaign is likely continuing, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The hackers, who worked for a Russian state-sponsored group known as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear, claimed "hundreds of victims" in 2017, according to officials at the Department of Homeland Security, the Journal reported.

Hackers used conventional tools such as spear-phishing emails and watering-hole attacks that trick victims into entering their passwords and then gained access to corporate networks of suppliers, which allowed the hackers to steal credentials and gain access to utility networks, the report said.

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Twelve Russian intelligence officers indicted in Mueller probe
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Twelve Russian intelligence officers indicted in Mueller probe
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (C) holds a news conference at the Department of Justice July 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking computers used by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other organizations. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pauses while announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A copy of the grand jury indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers is seen after the indictments were filed in U.S. District Court by prosecutors working as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation�n Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein departs a news conference after announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
The U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building is seen after Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pauses while announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A copy of the grand jury indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers is seen after being filed in U.S. District Court by prosecutors working as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation�in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation as he appears with Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed O?Callaghan during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein takes questions after announcing grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 13: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (C) holds a news conference at the Department of Justice July 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking computers used by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other organizations. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.

DHS plans to conduct four briefings and is searching for evidence on the Russians attempting to automate their attacks, the report said. Investigators cited by the WSJ said was it was not clear whether this was done by the hackers in preparation for a bigger future attack.

The report comes amid increasing cyber-tensions between Moscow and Washington. A federal grand jury in the U.S. indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers earlier in July on charges of hacking the computer networks of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russia's role in the 2016 election and whether the campaign of Republican candidate Donald Trump colluded with Moscow. Russia denies meddling in the elections while President Trump has denied any collusion. (Editing by Leslie Adler)

 

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