The Washington Post reported on Friday that United States officials claimed a malware code associated with Russian hackers had been detected within the system of a utility in Vermont, potentially infiltrating the national electrical grid — but the news outlet walked back the story on Saturday, adding an editor's note saying that "an earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid."
In its original story, the Post reported that disruptions to the electrical grid could potentially wreak havoc on "medical and emergency services" across the country, and that the hack was believed to have been orchestrated by a hacking operation the Obama administration has named "Grizzly Steppe."
But now the Post is reporting that not only was the utility in question not attached to the national electrical grid, the malware in question may not even have been related to Russian hackers. The Post's updates to its original story have led Pro-Trump outlets to declare the story "fake news" and cast doubt on other, more plausible reports of Russian hacking.
But despite the apparently-overblown and potentially false nature of this story, Russia has previously been accused of successfully disrupting electrical service elsewhere, including in Ukraine. CBS News reported earlier this month that Russia is believed to have attacked Ukraine by hacking into the power grid — one suspected attack left "nearly a quarter of a million people" without power in Ukraine's Ivano-Frankivsk region.
"We can't just look at the Ukraine attack and go 'oh we're safe against that attack,'" Rob Lee, a former cyber warfare operations officer in the U.S. military, told CBS News earlier this month.
"Even if we just lose a portion, right? If we have New York City or Washington D.C. go down for a day, two days, a week, what does life look like at that point?"
Jan. 3, 2017, 9:32 a.m.: This story has been updated