As if tension between the United States and Russia wasn't already high enough, government officials recently disclosed that they've found evidence of Russian malware on a computer belonging to a Vermont utility company.

Burlington Electric Department (BED), an electric utility provider in Burlington, Vermont, said in a press release last Friday that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) alerted US-based utilities of a malware code used in a Russian hacking campaign dubbed Grizzly Steppe.

Acting on the intelligence, the utility said it scanned all computers in its system and found the malware on a single laptop that was not connected to their grid system. Immediate action was taken to isolate the infected machine, the BED said. They also alerted federal authorities.

In a follow-up on New Year's Eve, the utility added that federal officials told them that the specific type of Internet traffic related to the malicious activity they reported a day earlier has also been observed elsewhere in the country and thus, is not unique to BED. What's more, the utility ensured that there is no indication that the electric grid or customer information was compromised as a result of the malware infection.

In a public statement on the matter, Vermont senator Patrick Leahy said the attack is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides as they're now trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter. It's a direct threat to Vermont which the senator said is something they do not take lightly.

Image courtesy Kevin Lamarque, Reuters