Skip to Content
Computing

Russian hackers could switch America’s lights off

July 24, 2018

US officials say cyberattackers penetrated the control rooms of some power companies.

The news: According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has revealed that a Russian-backed hacker group hit hundreds of targets last year. The group, dubbed Energetic Bear, even managed to get into some American power company networks that were “air-gapped,” or isolated from the internet.

The ruse: The hackers sneaked in by targeting trusted suppliers that help utilities monitor and upgrade their software and machinery. Once inside the suppliers’ systems, they found ways to access the power firms’ networks and then worked out what equipment the companies were using and how it was being controlled. According to a DHS official, the attackers “got to the point where they could have thrown switches.”

Why this matters: The US has been warning for some time that Russian-backed hackers are intent on compromising everything from its energy grids to the electoral process. And Russia is widely suspected to be behind attacks mounted against power systems elsewhere, notably in Ukraine. Worryingly, DHS thinks Energetic Bear is still on the hunt for more targets.

Deep Dive

Computing

A chip design that changes everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Computer chip designs are expensive and hard to license. That’s all about to change thanks to the popular open standard known as RISC-V.

Modern data architectures fuel innovation

More diverse data estates require a new strategy—and the infrastructure to support it.

Chinese chips will keep powering your everyday life

The war over advanced semiconductor technology continues, but China will likely take a more important role in manufacturing legacy chips for common devices.

The computer scientist who hunts for costly bugs in crypto code

Programming errors on the blockchain can mean $100 million lost in the blink of an eye. Ronghui Gu and his company CertiK are trying to help.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.