New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan appeared to be unaware during a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that a Washington Post story about Russian hacking into the Vermont power grid has been completely debunked and retracted.
“Two weeks ago The Washington Post reported that a hacking group connected with the Russian government managed to infiltrate the Burlington Electric power company in Vermont,” Hassan said to retired Marine Gen. John Kelley during his confirmation hearing to head the Department of Homeland Security.
Hassan, who took office this month after serving as governor of New Hampshire, showed no indication during the questioning that she was aware that The Post’s story has been found to be “fake news.”
She continued her statement based on the premise that the Russian government had targeted and infiltrated Vermont’s power grid.
In its article, entitled “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, officials say,” The Post reported that Russian hackers had found their way into Burlington Electric’s computer systems and its power system controls. (RELATED: Washington Post Publishes False News Story About Russian’s Hacking Electrical Grid)
But the power company issued a statement saying that it had not been compromised. The truth of the matter was much less serious. The company flagged suspicious activity on its computer systems after running a search based on a list of IP addresses provided by the federal government.
When Burlington Electric ran the check, it found that a computer that was not hooked up to power supply controls had accessed one of the flagged IP addresses. And while the IP address was sometimes used during cyber attacks, that was not always the case. Burlington Electric shared the information with federal authorities out of an abundance of caution. One of the federal authorities then appeared to leak the information to The Post without the proper context.
The newspaper published a follow-up article several days later noting that its initial report was nearly completely inaccurate and that Russian agents neither infiltrated the Vermont system nor attempted to do so.
Hassan seemed clueless about any of those developments in the story.
“I think we all agree that foreign infiltration into our utility infrastructure, into any of our infrastructure, is unacceptable,” she told Kelly.
“With DHS being responsible for securing critical infrastructure from both physical and cyber attack I’m just curious about what steps DHS needs to be taking to prevent cyber attacks on critical infrastructure and confronting foreign nations’ espionage efforts.”
Kelly did not correct Hassan in his response to the Democrat.