David Kirkpatrick

August 2, 2010

“Smart grid” electric meters and hackers

Food for uneasy thought.

I have a smart grid meter on my house. At the time it was installed I liked the idea because they more easily allow you to sell electricity back to the grid, you know like if you have a solar array on your roof and produce more than you use (if you read this blog often at all you know I’m very interested in solar and I’d love to have an array on my sun-drenched roof right now). This news gives me quite a bit of pause on smart grid meters.

From the link:

The hurried deployment of smart-grid technology could leave critical infrastructure and private homes vulnerable to hackers. Security experts at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas last week warned that smart-grid hardware and software lacks the necessary safeguards to protect against meddling.

Utilities are being encouraged to install this smart-grid technology–network-connected devices to help intelligently monitor and manage power usage–through funding from the U.S. government’s 2009 stimulus package. The smart systems could save energy and automatically adjust usage within homes and businesses. Customers might, for example, agree to let a utility remotely turn off their air conditioners at times of peak use in exchange for a discount.

But to receive the stimulus money, utilities will have to install new devices across their entire customer base quickly. Security experts say that this could lead to problems down the road–as-yet-unknown vulnerabilities in hardware and software could open up new ways for attackers to manipulate equipment and take control of the energy supply.

Smart enough? This image shows the interior of a smart grid meter tested by Mike Davis of IOActive.
Credit: Mike Davis