Sian Crampsie

An investigation into a December 2016 power outage in Ukraine has found that the incident was the result of hacking.
The outage affected Ukraine’s transmission grid and occurred a year after a similar incident affected the country’s distribution network.
That outage caused a widespread blackout affecting 230 000 people and was later found to have been caused by hackers.
Tech website Motherboard has reported that the latest event was also the result of a cyberattack, citing Ukrainian security researchers as sources. The attack struck the Pivnichna substation outside the capital city Kiev on December 17, 2016, disrupting power supplies for an hour.
The incident raises further concerns about the vulnerability of critical infrastructure systems to cyberattack, experts say. It is also possible that hackers are using Ukraine’s grid as a test bed for sophisticated attacks on other targets.
“Cyberattacks against energy infrastructure are here to stay, and the industry needs to incorporate defense into standard operating procedure,” said Tim Erlin, Senior Director at Tripwire. “There’s more to learn about this attack buried in the logs and other data that’s been collected. The investigation is far from over, and while the headlines may fade, industry professionals should be diligent in learning all they can in order to better defend their own organizations.”
The attack on the distribution grid was a spear phishing attack, according to Jonathan Sander, VP of Product Strategy at Lieberman Software. “The Ukrainian power grid has been struck again by cyber bad guys in part because it seems they are using it as a test for bigger things later and in part because the attack was so subtle that nothing could likely have stopped it,” Sander said. “The only time the attack maybe could have been thwarted was at the very start when they stole administrative credentials.
“Once they had the high level access with the admin rights, then they were able to sit, watch, study, and formulate a phishing attack so real that no one could resist it.”