Hackers Reportedly Responsible for Ukraine Power Cuts

Back in December 2015, 225 thousand people in Ukraine were without power, which a US report has now blamed on hackers. This would make it the first known successful hack against utilities. The report was created by the US Department of Homeland Security, based on a number of interviews with members of staff at Ukrainian organizations that handled the aftermath.

According to the report, the attack was made up of multiple stages, with hackers initially planting malware on computer systems operated by Ukrainian power generation firms, distributed by email in a technique known as “spear phishing”. From there, the hackers were able to remotely access the computers, allowing them to remotely flip circuit breakers to as many as 80,000 customers of Ukraine’s Prykarpattyaoblenergo. The hackers then locked up the customer service lines with a vast number of fake calls, aiming to stop legitimate customers from reporting the power outage.

The report is entirely based on interviews, and the writers of the report, the cyber-emergency response team in the Industrial Control Systems arm of the DHS, had not been able to independently review any technical evidence at the time of writing. While no group or nation was named as responsible in the report, evidence suggests that a well-known Russian hacker group committed the attack.