Thursday, January 05, 2017

Vermont Digger and Vermont politicians aid and abet anti-Russia hysteria

Erin Mansfield at Vt. Digger, while mostly furthering the dangerous, hysterical, and utterly unfounded ‘Russia is attacking’ narrative, nevertheless wrote:
An attempt to reach Neale Lunderville, the general manager of Burlington Electric, was unsuccessful. ...

Both Burlington Electric and state officials say the grid was not affected. ...

Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Co-op also participated in the Department of Homeland Security’s rigorous “risk vulnerability assessment” and found no threat to electric grid systems.

Gov. Peter Shumlin said his office has been in communication with the federal government and Vermont utilities about the incident.
Despite that reported communication, Shumlin stated:
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. This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling. I call upon the federal government to conduct a full and complete investigation of this incident and undertake remedies to ensure that this never happens again.
Sen. Patrick Leahy stated that ‘he believes the Russian hackers were “trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter. That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly.”’

Rep. Peter Welch stated that ‘the attack “shows how rampant Russian hacking is. It’s systemic, relentless, predatory. 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.”’

The Editor of Vt. Digger, Anne Galloway, who ‘believe[s] the [Washington] Post to be a reputable source’, casuistically defended the article and lack of retraction even after the Post itself published a correction after days of ridicule:
VTDigger never reported that there was a hack of the grid, only that Russians had used malware to hack a computer at BED. ... We did not report that the Russian government was behind the attack. Vermont politicians appear [to have] jumped to that conclusion, as did the Obama administration. We have no way of knowing if the Russian government was involved. That’s the purview of security officials. We can only quote others on that score. Based on these facts, our story is correct. Other news outlets, including Bloomberg, NPR, AP and ABC News, among others have published stories nearly identical to ours. ... While BED was not hacked, one of the utility’s computers, which was not attached to the grid, or the company’s customer information system, was. A nuance that seems to have been missed by many astute readers. ... At this point, I don’t see the need for a correction.
In short, ‘Russians’ is just a friendly word for all hackers, just as all malicious code is ‘Russian’ and any random infection is ‘hacking’. Any suggestion that the Russian government is implied is the fault of the reader, who should pay more heed to the opinions of their own government and its media mouthpieces.

One commenter wrote in reply (edited for sense):
The article begins: ‘Russian hackers penetrated a computer at the Burlington Electric Department that is not connected to the electrical grid, officials say. Burlington Electric found out about the malware when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified the utility about a hacking campaign called Grizzly Steppe.’

Acceptance – and reinforcement – of both the DHS storyline and the anti-Russia hysteria of the Democratic Party and their Republican allies could not be more clear.

A more neutral report might read: ‘A virus scan of computers at BED, prompted by the DHS, recently found malware code on one laptop. The laptop was not connected to the electrical grid. The code matches samples provided by the DHS as evidence of an alleged Russian-government hacking campaign that the DHS calls “Grizzly Steppe.” Independent cybersecurity experts, however, have characterized the malware as “off-the-shelf” code that is years old.’