Setting The Record Straight: Behind The Story At Burlington Electric

Burlington - Friday, December 30th. Burlington Electric Department was one of over 3,000 utilities organizations that had recently scanned for malware upon the request of the Department of Homeland Security. It was a routine procedure.


However on the heels of a long holiday weekend as Vermonters are ready to ring in the New Year. Burlington Electric Company president Neale Lunderville sends an inner office email of high importance. The message read in part "U.S. utilities were alerted by the Department of Homeland Security of a malware code use in grizzly steppe, the name DHS has applied to a Russian campaign linked to recent hacks."


The next sentence in the release may be the most important in the sequence of events that should have calmed the media storm that was already forming.


"We acted quickly to scan all computers in our system for the malware signature. We detected the malware in laptop not connected to our organization's grid systems.


But a highly reputable news organization had already published an on line article suggesting the grid was hacked. Just before 8:00 pm the Washington post posted the article. An unknown federal official caught wind of the red flag on the laptop and the post ran with the article.


The incorrect press reports resulted in a flurry of phone calls and emails at B-E-D between Lunderville his staff and city, state and federal officials.


Vermont state leaders and congressional leaders demanded an answer as to how Russia could've pulled off the cyber-attack. Leaders of other utilities company's needed more information. Lunderville and his staff went into over drive and overtime to quell a looming media storm.


Local 22/Local 44 requested copies of correspondence under the Vermont Public Records Act. On Friday night, a security consultant had confirmed that the grid was not compromised and shared that information to Lunderville and B-E-D's Director of Information Technology.


It was clear just hours after the story started spreading that Lunderville alerted Burlington Electric that there was no threat and an off-line computer contained malware. 


Six days after the initial Washington post report was posted the media requests began to subside. With Neale Lunderville and his staff quietly getting back into a regular routine as the New Year began. All after merely conducting the most important and spontaneous of crisis communications campaigns that worked to perfection.

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