Smart Power Grid Needs to Be Hacker Proof
Article by George Norman
On 23 Mar 2009
The Smart Grid, which will be set up as an intelligent power distribution network, may be the answer to the United States energy problems, but unless it is designed with security in mind, then it may turn out to be more of a hassle than an intelligent solution. According to security experts, the Smart Grid will be vulnerable to the same type of online threats we’ve come to grown accustomed to in our day to day computer usage (worms, Trojans, viruses, hacker attacks and so on).

If a person with malicious intent were to exploit a vulnerability in the system, then that person would be able to use the Smart Grid to deliver targeted blackouts, for power generation corruption, or to get hold of data referring to energy consumption and use said data for malicious purposes. It is thus critical for the electricity network to move from analog to digital in a manner that does not leave it exposes to hacker attacks.

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The Smart Grid is meant to deliver energy (power) from the supplier to the consumer, but unlike the traditional way it has been done before, the energy transfer will be performed using digital technology. The gain will be noticeable as it will lead to reduced costs and increased reliability. Some of the technologies used in the Smart Grid include advanced sensors, two-way communications and automated meters. According to IOActive, company that specializes in security services, a person with technical know-how, $500 worth of equipment and materials could hack some types of meters and “take command and control of the [advanced meter infrastructure] allowing for the en masse manipulation of service to homes and businesses.”

Once that person is in the system and manages to take control of more and more meters, then he could turn them off all at once and thus he could blackout a certain area. The hacker could also increase/decrease power demand thus disrupting the load balance on a local power grid, which would also lead to a blackout. If this happened then it could lead to a cascade effect and blackout of massive proportions.

The good news is that both the security experts and the people responsible for setting up the Smart Grid have acknowledged the issue and will take the matter of network security seriously.



Tags: Smart Grid, Hacker, Blackout
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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