This Wall Street Journal article "Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies" is an example of "yellow journalism". It makes eye catching claims whose only source is anonymous government officials, backed up by pseudo-experts that nobody has heard of before.
The source of this story probably has to do with this:
Last week, Senate Democrats introduced a proposal that would require all critical infrastructure companies to meet new cybersecurity standards and grant the president emergency powers over control of the grid systems and other infrastructure.There's no coordinated conspiracy here, but there are a lot of government officials who stand to gain by this attempt at drastically increasing government control over the Internet. They will certain call up reporters they know and attempt to get them to write scare stories precisely like this.
Another quote from the story is:
Last year, a senior Central Intelligence Agency official, Tom Donohue, told a meeting of utility company representatives in New Orleans that a cyberattack had taken out power equipment in multiple regions outside the U.S. The outage was followed with extortion demands, he said.I know of a similar story, told to me by the people who investigated the incident. It appeared that hackers had broken into the power control systems (in a country outside the US), caused a small blackout, and had made ransom demands. As it turns out, it was an inside job, not an attack from the outside. Both the outside "hacker" and the inside guy (who flipped the appropriate switch to cause a blackout) were arrested and put in jail. (The timing and details are similar enough that it's my guess the stories refer to the same incident).
Notice how my story has an ending, whereas Tom Donohue's story doesn't. Seriously, how could the CIA not know how the story turned out. The hackers made ransom demands, but then what?
My conclusion is that the CIA and/or Tom Donohue is lying. They are claiming something to be solid research which is only vague innuendo and rumors.