by K.T. Weaver, SkyVision Solutions
Grid security is at risk according to an article today at GCN which provides information, insight and analysis to the Government IT and Education IT sectors.
“The technical issues that interrupted service for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Stock Exchange and United Airlines on July 8 illustrate how dependent the economy is on technology. As IT staff worked to fix the problems, at least their computers and phones worked, and the lights and AC were on. A failure of the electrical grid, on the other hand, would make the problems at the NYSE look like, well, just glitches.”
“For some time, experts have been warning about security of the electrical grid and smart grid vulnerabilities, as utilities are increasingly connecting to the Internet for smart metering and collecting data on equipment condition and power use through embedded sensors. But most utilities are in the business of delivering reliable electricity to customers, not ensuring their electric networks are protected from cyber attacks.”
“[E]lectric utilities have a huge gap in their operational understanding of their own systems and in their cybersecurity,” said Steve Omick, president of Vencore Labs, a consulting firm that works with government, military and commercial customers.”
“The trouble for utilities, Omick explained, is that third-party contractors manage the electric meters outside houses. Those “smart meters” usually include a wireless network card and communicates data to other surrounding meters — but that data, Omick said, “is often times not well protected, and for a lot of utilities it’s not even well understood how that connectivity happens.”
Hopefully it is clear from this article that our society is being placed at great risk by the smart grid industry in deploying unsafe and insecure systems and not properly informing consumers about the associated risks. Without greater public awareness, the necessary consumer and political pressures may never force the utilities to “do the right thing” in time to protect us all from disaster.
As stated by an expert respondent highlighted in a recent Pew Research Center report:
“The ‘smart grid’ is the most substantial danger. Cyber attacks that target a ‘smart grid’ will result in loss of power to large numbers of places simultaneously, causing infrastructure damages. … No single instance will be ‘widespread harm,’ but all of these together will add up to that in only a short period of time. Unless there is some unforeseen major new technological development …, the only way to prevent this will be to refrain from adopting ‘smart grid’ technologies.”
To gain an even better appreciation of the cyber threats posed by smart meters and the smart grid, SkyVision Solutions has prepared a special video which is just over five minutes in duration.
[The above video contains material used pursuant to the Fair Use Doctrine under 17 U.S.C. 107 and is presented in the public’s interest for non-commercial purposes.]
Primary Source Material for this Article
“Grid security as a service?”, full article available at: http://gcn.com/articles/2015/07/10/smart-grid-security.aspx
Pew Research Center, October 2014, “Cyber Attacks Likely to Increase”; Expert Opinion of Andrew Chen, Associate Professor Computer Science at Minnesota State University-Moorhead; report available at: http://www.pewInternet.org/2014/10/29/cyber-attacks-likely-to-increase/.
In this report, “widespread harm” was defined as “significant loss of life or property losses/damage/theft at the levels of tens of billions of dollars.”
Video Credit Citations
National Geographic Channel, “American Blackout,” October 2013; refer to http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/american-blackout/
C-SPAN, November 20, 2014, “Cybersecurity Threats,” at http://www.c-span.org/video/?322853-1/hearing-cybersecurity-threats#ftag=YHFb1d24ec
WKYC TV in Cleveland, Ohio; “Investigator: Cyber attack bigger threat than Sandy,” at http://archive.wkyc.com/news/article/267320/45/Investigator-Cyber-attack-bigger-threat-than-Sandy
Former CIA Director James Woolsey at http://vimeo.com/27770029.