Federal government officials up their count of US energy sector victims from dozens to hundreds, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The US Department of Homeland , which earlier this year warned of Russian nation-state hacking teams targeting energy and other critical organizations, in a briefing this week provided more details on the campaign.

The Wall Street Journal reported that DHS officials said there were hundreds of victims: an increase from their original count of a few dozen targets who had been hacked by Dragonfly, aka Energetic Bear, via supply-chain attacks.

The attackers hopped from commercial supplier networks to the energy organizations and siphoned information on how the utility sites operate and were trying to remain under the radar, appearing as “people who touch these systems on a daily basis,” Jonathan Homer, chief of industrial-control-system analysis for DHS told the WSJ.

“The DHS has done a great job amplifying what was previously identified by the private sector and adding their own information. This relates to activity already previously communicated to the electric community, but highlighting ongoing risk is important,” said Rob Lee, CEO of Dragos.

But, Lee says, the WSJ report’s reference to “throwing switches” and “causing blackouts” was misleading. It’s more of a cyber espionage operation: “What was observed is incredibly concerning, but of imminent blackouts are not representative of what happened which was more akin to reconnaissance into sensitive networks,” Lee says.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure View Full Bio

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