backtop


Print 24 comment(s) - last by phantom505.. on Oct 10 at 1:19 PM


  (Source: U.S. Department of Energy)

An old fashioned grid may be inefficient, but it may be easier to secure than a "smart grid". Much of the benefits of a smart grid come from internet connectivity, and that connectivity opens the door to attacks.  (Source: Shuttershock)

Lockheed Martin's Kenneth Van Meter  (Source: West Virginia University)
Coincidentally Lockheed Martin happens to sell security software

Lockheed Martin's General Manager of Energy & Cyber Services, Kenneth Van Meter, speaking with green-power site Smart Planet voiced some dire warnings about the United States' push to adopt a "smart grid".  According to Mr. Van Meter, the transition poses a glaring threat to the security of the U.S.

He comments, "Right now if I wanted to cut off the power to your house, I’d climb the pole, and there’s a manual switch. Everything’s physical. Once we have a smart grid in place I could do that from China."

"The sheer volume of interactive devices on two-way networks is the biggest risk. By the end of 2015 we will have 440 million new hackable points on the grid. Nobody’s equipped to deal with that today."

When asked about the worse case scenario he remarks:

There are three. The one everyone thinks about is the neighborhood kid or someone in another country turning off the power to the neighborhood or the hospital in the middle of night. While no one wants that to happen, it’ll be detected pretty quickly, so it’s not a disaster.

The second potential problem has to do with voltage control. If you want to optimize the amount of power the electrical company has, you want to engage in voltage control, where you have devices along the line from the substation. You can adjust the voltage, everyone gets the right voltage, and everyone’s appliances are running more efficiently. Putting in those devices is expensive, and now those become hackable points–because if you can control them, then someone else can control them. So if your power is out, that would be highly inconvenient. But what if they ran the voltage up and down on your house and when it was fixed, the voltage-sensitive equipment like your computer and high-definition TV didn’t work any more?

Third: If you can cause rapid problems in the grid to occur in the right places at scheduled times, you could destabilize the whole grid, black out whole cities or states and cause massive damage. Sometimes this happens accidentally, but it could also happen because someone makes it happen. Some of the devices are very expensive and therefore there are few spares. Substation-sized transformers, for example, aren’t even made in this country anymore and sometimes it can take two years to get one.

Coincidentally, Mr. Van Meter's company sells security solutions to utilities, so his reason for evangelizing about the smart grid's insecurity may not be purely altruistic.  And Lockheed Martin has had its own security woes recently, with Chinese spies reportedly breaking into servers used in the company's F-35 Lightning II fighter project.

Nonetheless, the points raised are largely valid.  Virtually every large piece of software (Windows, Linux, OS X, Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Adobe Flash, etc.) created has had vulnerabilities that have been found and exploited.  Its unlikely to think that the software that governs the grid will be free of similar vulnerabilities.

A web-connected grid, like Google Grid or Microsoft Hohm, sounds great on paper, but it introduces a pressing need for security, as people from all over the world can now try to attack the power infrastructure remotely.  And where a typical cyberattack may merely deny people access to a website, or damage their personal computers, an attack on the grid could literally prove deadly.  So Lockheed Martin may be a bit biased, but they're probably right, in this case.


Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

It's a given
By amanojaku on 10/5/2010 8:42:05 AM , Rating: 2
That when a for-profit engages you or your organization the statement "and we have a solution" follows. For-profits don't do anything that doesn't generate revenue, which includes scoping out opportunities. (Side note: Be wary of organizations selling you resident consultants. There is a growing trend of positioning residents to up-sell while sacrificing completion of milestones. Counter this with a tightly written statement of work, and don't blame the consultant for doing his job. Unless he's a smarmy bastard.)

That being said, Lockheed is correct in that a smart grid is a potential security threat. There are claims that it's already happened with "intelligent" portions of our current dumb grid, so a smart grid would create more points of entry. I don't mind a smart grid monitoring my use; the worst that can happen is I get a bill that doesn't match my in-house meter. A quick photo and several trips to court can fix that. A grid that can control stuff opens up a wealth of issues. Brown and black-outs that damage electronics, or deprive medical equipment of much needed power are my main concerns.




"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer














botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki