Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Smart Internet energy grid, spurred by green initiatives, could pose grave security risks to utilities and consumers

Thomas Friedman, author of “The World Is Flat”, has proposed a “smart energy grid” using the Internet to adjust electricity loads and reward consumers for smart, green behavior in pricing. Oprah and others have supported him quite publicly.
But the idea of connecting the utility system, however carefully, to the public Internet could run into serious security concerns, as the stakes from any conceivable hack get greater, even as robust security layers are added by utilities and developed by vendors like Microsoft, IBM, EDS, and others.

Brian Krebs has an important article in the July 28 Washington Post on the issue, “’Smart Grid’ Raises Security Concerns”, link here.

I recall, when still living in Minneapolis, back in 2002, various doomsday articles on how easily hackers could attack utilities, but by and large they were unfounded, as the utility grid has been almost closed off from public access. However, the federal government found out that some of its systems were not so immune with the DOS attacks last month. Similar comments were made after the August 2003 Northeast power failure, but that was related to internal software and hardware problems in the grid (as a wrong direction loop in Ohio), not to malfeasance. But in the future we could become much more vulnerable.

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