Over the weekend we noted that the Washington Post was caught spreading "fake news" about an alleged attempt by "Russian hackers" to take over a Vermont Utility (see "Washington Post Caught Spreading More Fake News About 'Russian Hackers'"). Within hours of reporting that the "Russian hackers" had gained access to the electrical grid, the Burlington Electric Department in Vermont had to issue a statement confirming that the provocative Wapo story simply wasn't true and that a laptop found to be infected with malware was never actually connected to the grid. An embarrassed Wapo was subsequently forced to change it's sensationalized headline and publish a retraction.
Now, as they often do, it appears this Wapo "fake news" rabbit holes gets even deeper. Not only are "federal officials" now confirming that "Russian hackers" never targeted the Vermont electrical grid, but the whole mishap was derived from an employee's attempt to check his Yahoo email account which, as Wapo reports, resulted in his computer connecting to a "suspicious IP address" that is "found elsewhere in the country suggesting the company wasn't being targeted by Russians."
Moreover, not only was the malware not linked to a specific attempt of "Russian hackers" to penetrate the U.S. electrical grid, the software in question isn't even linked to the "Grizzly Steppe" group that the Obama administration says is behind the DNC and John Podesta email hacks. Of course, this is a direct contradiction to the opening paragraph of Wapo's original story which directly connected the Vermont "hack" back to "Grizzly Steppe"...apparently with no evidence whatsoever.
U.S. officials are continuing to investigate the laptop. In the course of their investigation, though, they have found on the device a package of software tools commonly used by online criminals to deliver malware. The package, known as Neutrino, does not appear to be connected with Grizzly Steppe, which U.S. officials have identified as the Russian hacking operation. The FBI, which declined to comment, is continuing to investigate how the malware got onto the laptop.
Wapo goes on to point out that the "murkiness of the information" makes it difficult to relay meaningful information to the public about alleged "hackings."
The murkiness of the information underlines the difficulties faced by officials as they try to root out Grizzly Steppe and share with the public their findings on how the operation works. Experts say the situation was made worse by a recent government report, which they described as a genuine effort to share information with the industry but criticized as rushed and prone to causing confusion. Authorities also were leaking information about the utility without having all the facts and before law enforcement officials were able to investigate further.
Here's an idea, how about you simply avoid reporting "murky" information until you have all the facts? But that wouldn't help advance your "Russian hacking" narrative now would it?