Sunday, January 1, 2017

Why Vermont? A Facebook Jan 1 comment (slightly edited/updated) on Russian "hacking" (whatever than means) in one of our most pristine states ...

Sunday, January 1, 2017

One request, from a not-so-humble, uninformed (un-uniformed), ignorant, non-tech-savvy citizen -- to the "Intelligence Kommunity (CIA, FBI)," The Press Pundrity," and the "WHinfotry":

Could you pls., pls. clearly, simply define what you mean by "hacking."

[addendum (1/5/2017: "The thing about computer hacking is that it’s such a general, far-reaching term that it’s almost impossible to explain to someone who isn’t already familiar with it." (

The dictionary definition: "to use a computer to gain unauthorized access to data in a system."

John Brown Am no computer/hacker specialist -- but I can't stop thinking: Why Vermont?

image from

Why should 'em russkies (yes, they're coming!) hack a computer in, of all places, Vermont (mind you, I luv Vermont) -- which, we'd all agree, being the pristine state that it is, is not a center of imperialistic American aggression, except perhaps to protect the homeland against that dangerous neighbor, Canada? 

And is "hack" the technically correct word to describe what the Russian FSB geeks supposedly did, as part of a putative (putintative?) "plan" to destabilize our dear post-Bush-II designated "homeland" by means of "cyber-warfare"? 

I bet most Russians (including -- especially? -- their leadership, so many of whose members know "America" mostly by their investments in Manhattan & Florida real estate) probably can't even find Vermont on a map ...

BTW, How many of us 'Merikans can find, say, Yamalia on the map (granted, bigger than Vermont)? (No it's not All-quiet-flows the Don's spouse.)

image from
Juliet Eilperin and Adam Entous, "Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say," Washington Post (December 31, 2016):
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.
(December 31, 2016)

image from above article

Kalev Leetaru,"How The Washington Post's Defense Of Its Russian Hacking Story Unraveled Through Web Archiving," (January 2, 2017)

Glenn Greenwald, "WashPost Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived," (January 4, 2017); via LH on Facebook

"More cases of Russian cyberattacks come to light," (January 3, 2017)
U.S. government officials have been notified of new cases of attempted or potentially successful cyber intrusions, CBS News has learned.
Officials would not go into specifics or reveal the number of new cases. ...
[S]o far, investigators have not been able to determine the intent behind the Vermont incident, and there are no indications the power grid is compromised.
“While our analysis continues, we currently have no information that indicates that the power grid was penetrated in this cyber incident,” said Todd Breasseale [when I read the three letters in the middle of that nice name, I'm relieved I inherited the simpler family designation "Brown"] :), Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. ...
All U.S. intelligence agencies are in agreement that the Russian government with the blessing of Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated “aggressive” cyberattacks prior to and during the U.S. election.


On Friday night, “officials” appeared to have given The Washington Post a perfect scoop for a weekend that would bridge the years 2016 and 2017. “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, officials say,” read the OMG headline on the original story. Even on the sluggish first steps of a holiday weekend, the story hustled its way everywhere. Journalists tweeted it; other outlets pursued it; statements came flying out of officialdom.
It tumbled pretty quickly, too. Though the story didn’t identify the utility that had allegedly been hacked, Burlington Electric came forth with a statement that night noting that there was, in fact, no danger to the electricity grid:
Last night, U.S. utilities were alerted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of a malware code used in Grizzly Steppe, the name DHS has applied to a Russian campaign linked to recent hacks. We acted quickly to scan all computers in our system for the malware signature. We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to our organization’s grid systems. We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding. Our team is working with federal officials to trace this malware and prevent any other attempts to infiltrate utility systems. We have briefed state officials and will support the investigation fully.
The threat level fell even further over the following days. Not only was the laptop not connected to the electricity grid, Burlington Electric may not have been targeted at all. In a Jan. 2 story correcting its erroneous initial report, The Post noted, “An employee at Burlington Electric Department was checking his Yahoo email account Friday and triggered an alert indicating that his computer had connected to a suspicious IP address associated by authorities with the Russian hacking operation that infiltrated the Democratic Party.” The whole thing could have been “benign,” the newspaper said.
The original story still features a headline loyal to what those officials originally told The Post: “Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say,” reads the current headline on the flawed story. It also carries this editor’s note:
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.
So there’s a duel going on at The Post’s website — between a more recent story that features correct information and a more dated one that oversells the hacking threat. The result is a clicky version of Russian roulette: If you choose the wrong version, you get the wrong news. 
number of critics have blasted The Post for its handling of the story, and this blog will forego a laborious reconstruction of the affair.
What stands out about the incident, however, is that the newspaper published its salacious story based on the accounts of the “officials,” though without input from the utility folks. Burlington Electric executive Neale Lunderville told Vermont Public Radio, “It could have easily been corrected, well first, had this federal official not leaked this information inaccurately, and second had the news outlet got in touch with us to confirm it or deny it, and we would have told them, ‘Not so. That’s not the case.’ And they could have printed a correct story the first time around.” 
The Erik Wemple Blog today asked top Post officials for interviews on the screw-ups, though we didn’t get any sit-downs. Kris Coratti, a spokeswoman for the paper, issued this statement: “We have corrected the story, prominently displayed the correct information after further reporting, evaluated what transpired, and had the appropriate discussions internally to make sure something similar does not occur again.”
“Again” would be the third time, considering that The Post was forced to publish an editor’s note over a Thanksgiving-weekend story fingering Russia for assisting in the spread of fake news.
The missteps mar an otherwise spectacular run for The Post, which nailed exclusive after exclusive in the presidential campaign. With traffic surging and editorial ranks growing, The Post, you might suppose, would have the self-confidence to sit for an extensive interview about its occasional failings. Apparently not.

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