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More Than a Dozen US Utilities Located Next to Critical Infrastructure Targeted by Hackers Using 'Phishing' Emails

11-25-2019
Cyberattack

More than a dozen utilities in the US were targeted by hackers in a recent wave of cyberattacks.

The Wall Street Journal reports that even though some of the utilities are small, they are located near dams, locks, and other critical infrastructure.

The cyberattacks were first brought to light back in August by researchers at a Silicon Valley cybersecurity company. The FBI is investigating the attacks, which may still be ongoing, according to the security researchers.

The utilities told The Journal the FBI provided information that helped them scan their computer networks to see if firewalls – their first-line defenses – had been probed and whether malware-laced emails had been sent to their employees. The FBI declined to comment to the paper.

The target utilities are located in 18 states from Maine to Washington. According to The Journal, they include Cloverland Electric Cooperative in Michigan, which sits next to the Sault Ste. Marie Locks, a critical juncture for the transport of iron ore to U.S. steel mills; Klickitat Public Utility District in Washington state, which is near major federal dams and transmission lines that funnel hydroelectricity to California; and Basin Electric Power Cooperative in North Dakota, one of the few utilities that is capable of delivering electricity to both the nation's eastern and western grids.

The hackers tried to get malware installed on the utilities' computers through phishing emails to employees. If opened, the malware would give hackers the ability to control the employee's computer to steal information. 

The US government has repeatedly warned that the nation's electrical grid is a primary target for overseas hackers. 

As CBN News reported in September, Frank Gaffney, the head the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., also sounded the alarm about the vulnerability of the nation's electric grid. 

"Our electric infrastructure is very susceptible to the sorts of dangers that are absolutely predictable," Gaffney said.

Back in January, the intelligence community delivered a report to the Senate Intelligence Committee that said Russia and China are capable of launching cyber attacks that could disrupt electric grids and gas pipelines in the US. 

According to one warning in the Worldwide Threat Assessment report, "China has the ability to launch cyberattacks that cause localized, temporary disruptive effects on critical infrastructures – such as disruption of a natural gas pipeline for days to weeks – in the United States."

The report also says that Moscow is staging cyber-attack assets to disrupt or damage US civilian and military infrastructure during a crisis.

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