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Report: Spies hacked into U.S. electricity grid

A Wall Street Journal report, quoting national security officials, says spies have infiltrated the power grid in an apparent attempt to map the utility infrastructure.

Spies from other countries have hacked into the United States' electricity grid, leaving traces of their activity and raising concerns over the security of the U.S. energy infrastructure to cyberattacks.

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday published a report saying that spies sought ways to navigate and control the power grid as well as the water and sewage infrastructure. It's part of a rising number of intrusions, the article said, quoting former and current national security officials.

The intruders don't appear to have done any damage to date but did leave behind software that could disrupt the system.

"The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid," a senior intelligence official told the Journal. "So have the Russians."

There have long been concerns over securing the power grid and other infrastructure. Those security issues are mounting as utilities use more Internet-based communications and software to control the grid through smart-grid technology.

A report by security firm IOActive last month warned that people with $500 worth of equipment and the right training could manipulate smart meters with embedded communications in people's homes to potentially disrupt operation of the grid.

Plans to modernize the grid call for adding communications capability to the distribution network, allowing utilities to get usage data from buildings or equipment along the grid.

That increased automation, however, opens up more security challenges. Smart-grid companies can ship information over the power lines, cell phone networks, or the Internet using proprietary protocols or the Internet Protocol.

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