It was an unseasonably warm afternoon in Ukraine on Dec. 23 when the power suddenly went out for thousands of people in the capital, Kiev, and western parts of the country. While technicians struggled for several hours to turn the lights back on, frustrated customers got nothing but busy signals at their utilities’ call centers.
Almost immediately, Ukrainian security officials made claims about the cause of the power failure that evoked futuristic concepts of cyberwar. Hackers had taken down almost a quarter of the country’s power grid, they said. Specifically, the officials blamed Russians for tampering with the utilities’ software, then jamming the power companies’ phone lines to keep customers from alerting anyone.