US accuses Russia of cyber attacks on power grid

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking at a youth forum

"The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyberactivity, including their attempted interference in USA elections, destructive cyber attacks and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Officials in Washington say that Russian hackers are in the midst of a widespread attack on crucial components of US infrastructure, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report released Thursday.

A USA security alert published on March 15 said that Russian government hackers are seeking to penetrate multiple sectors that US consumers depend on for day-to-day necessities.

U.S. officials pointed to a report released late a year ago about the Dragonfly 2.0 campaign, which the report blamed for targeting energy sectors in the U.S., Turkey and Switzerland.

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"Our systems are constantly being attacked, constantly", said Menezes.

USA cybersecurity official Rick Driggers told reporters on March 15 that the Russian breaches of US critical infrastructure thus far have been limited to business networks and have not affected any plant's control systems.

But Thursday's alert provided a link to an analysis by the U.S. cyber security firm Symantec last autumn that said a group it had dubbed Dragonfly had targeted energy companies in the United States and Europe and in some cases broke into the core systems that control the companies' operations. "Not only the DOE system, but also the energy system".

In 2015 Ukraine experienced an unprecedented cyberattack on its electric grid that led to widespread power outages, which it said was caused by Russian Federation.

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USA intelligence officials recently testified that the Kremlin appears to believe it can launch hacking operations against the West with little fear of significant retribution.

Yesterday (15 March), the United States treasury department imposed sanctions on 19 Russian people and five groups, including Moscow's intelligence services, for meddling in the USA 2016 presidential election and other malicious cyberattacks.

"In some cases, information posted to company websites, especially information that may appear to be innocuous, may contain operationally sensitive information", the report reads.

The first group is organisations linked to their ultimate targets, such as third-party suppliers with networks that may be less secure than those of their main targets. Using the information they acquire, the individuals launch spear-phishing attacks against the staging targets, compromise their web-based infrastructure with malicious content, and develop watering holes to infect their intended target.

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Russian black-hat hackers then create other accounts inside the intended target's network to help remove signs of the intrusion.

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