Ukraine Investigates Russia in Power Grid Attack

Ukraine is investigating a suspected cyber-attack on its power grid by Russia.

Reuters has reported that that a Western Ukraine power company said that part of its service area, including the regional capital Ivano-Frankivsk, was left without power due to "interference" in its industrial control systems. The energy ministry in Kiev said that it has set up a special commission to investigate what happened.

The news comes after Crimea lost at least one quarter of its power after Ukraine switched off supplies to the peninsula. Ukrainian police said that the situation was a result of unidentified saboteurs blowing up an electricity pylon; here, it would appear the bellicosity is a bit more virtual.

Ukraine's SBU state security service blamed its neighbor, noting in a statement that it had thwarted malware that was wielded by "Russian security services.” The Kremlin has yet to comment on the allegation.

"It was an attempt to interfere in the system, but it was discovered and prevented," an SBU spokeswoman said, adding that the region would have faced a much longer blackout if the malware had executed as the attackers had intended.

To date, there have been very few documented assaults on industrial targets, although the possibility and the vulnerability of the sector is highly publicized. If the Ukraine’s accusations are validated, it would be the first time a specific power outage has been credibly linked to a cyber-attack, according to Robert Lee, a former US Air Force cyber warfare operations officer. However, if the accusations are proved out, it could open the floodgates for a deluge of nation-state attacks on critical infrastructure.

"Once there is a precedent, that would open up avenues for states to feel comfortable in going that route," said Lee, CEO of cybersecurity firm Dragos Security, speaking to Reuters. He said it was too early to say whether the SBU's account was credible.

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