WaPo Forced to Correct Its Russian Hacking Story

Inaccurate report claimed breach of U.S. electric grid in Vermont

The Washington Post issued a correction this weekend to a story it published Friday. The story inaccurately stated that Russian hackers successfully infiltrated the U.S. electric grid at a utility company in Vermont.

The Post published its initial story, written by Juliet Eilperin and Adam Entous, one day after President Obama slapped Russia with sanctions and expelled 35 of the country’s officials from the United States. Obama’s sanctions were in response to reports that Russia sought to actively meddle in the outcome of 2016 presidential election to support Republican Donald Trump’s candidacy over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s.

The Post’s original story, however, jumped to a conclusion — and claimed Russian hackers had managed to successfully penetrate the U.S. electric grid in a Burlington Electric Department computer.

“It’s unfortunate that an official or officials improperly shared inaccurate information with one media outlet, leading to multiple inaccurate reports.”

“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,” the editor’s note in The Post reads.

The article’s subsequent revisions acknowledged the hackers “did not actively use the code to disrupt operations,” although the hacking operation the Obama administration has dubbed Grizzly Steppe was detected in a single Burlington Electric Department computer.

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“We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to our organization’s grid systems,” the company itself said in a Friday statement. “We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding. Our team is working with federal officials to trace this malware and prevent any other attempts to infiltrate utility systems. We have briefed state officials and will support the investigation fully.”

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But as rumors swirled that the Russians had hacked the U.S. electric grid successfully, the company issued another statement Saturday with further clarifications.

“It’s unfortunate that an official or officials improperly shared inaccurate information with one media outlet, leading to multiple inaccurate reports around the country,” the Burlington Electric Department’s statement read. “At Burlington Electric, where we take great pride in conveying timely and accurate information, we want our community to know that there is no indication that either our electric grid or customer information has been compromised. Media reports stating that Burlington Electric was hacked or that the electric grid was breached are false.”

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