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Hackers Attacking U.S. and European Energy Firms Could Sabotage Power Grids

A hacking campaign is targeting the energy sector in Europe and the U.S. to potentially sabotage national power grids, a cybersecurity firm has warned.

The group, dubbed "Dragonfly" by researchers at Symantec, has been in operation since at least 2011 but went dark in 2014 after it was first exposed, secretly placing backdoors in the industrial control systems of power plants across the U.S. and Europe.

Now, Symantec reports, the group has resumed operations, apparently working since late 2015 to investigate and penetrate energy facilities in at least three countries: the U.S., Turkey and Switzerland.

“The Dragonfly group appears to be interested in both learning how energy facilities operate and also gaining access to operational systems themselves, to the extent that the group now potentially has the ability to sabotage or gain control of these systems should it decide to do so,” the cybersecurity firm warns.

Dragonfly’s methods are varied, but all its attacks seem to be focused on researching the inner workings of energy firms. It has been seen sending malicious emails with attachments that leak internal network credentials, which are then used to install backdoors on the network allowing the hackers to take control of computers and systems. They’ve also been seen seeding fake flash updates to install the backdoors and carrying out “watering hole” attacks, hacking third-party websites that were likely to be visited by people working in the energy sector.

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