Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — April 9, 2009 – Cyberspies from China, Russia and other countries have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Quoting current and former national security officials the paper says the spies were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. Though they haven’t sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, they could try during a crisis or war.

“The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid,” a senior intelligence official was quoted as saying. “So have the Russians.”

Quoting a former Department of Homeland Security official, the paper says the espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn’t target a particular company or region. Moreover, many of the intrusions were detected not by the companies in charge of the infrastructure but by U.S. intelligence agencies, officials said.

“Over the past several years, we have seen cyberattacks against critical infrastructures abroad, and many of our own infrastructures are as vulnerable as their foreign counterparts,” director of national intelligence Dennis Blair was quoted as telling lawmakers recently.

But Russian and Chinese officials were also quoted as denying any wrongdoing.

“These are pure speculations. Russia has nothing to do with the cyberattacks on the U.S. infrastructure, or on any infrastructure in any other country in the world,” Russian Embassy spokesman Yevgeniy Khorishko was quoted as saying.

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, Wang Baodong, was quoted as saying the Chinese government “resolutely oppose[s] any crime, including hacking, that destroys the Internet or computer network” and has laws barring the practice.

The energy industry is working to address smart grid security threats and a number of initiatives have been implemented (see Industry working to address smart grid security threats)  

A cybersecurity review reviewing the protection of the electrical grid and other infrastructure is due for completion next week.