Smart Grids Offer Cyber Attack Opportunities

Smart Grids Offer Cyber Attack Opportunities
Smart Grids Offer Cyber Attack Opportunities 

By Mathew J. Schwartz
October 12, 2010 

Is your home electricity meter the next device you have to worry about 
getting hacked? Researchers at last week's IEEE SmartGridComm2010 
conference in Gaithersburg, Md., warned that as utilities transition to 
greater use of smart grids, their increased two-way communication would 
leave consumers and suppliers open to more forms of cyber attack. In 
fact, by 2015, they estimated, the smart grid will offer up to 440 
million potential points to be hacked.

Why mess with someone's home heating bill? One significant worry is that 
intercepting and manipulating smart grid data could provide attackers 
with the means to benefit financially, said Le Xie, an assistant 
professor of electrical and computer engineering at Texas A&M 
University, according to published reports.

For example, utilities typically plan their energy requirements one day 
in advance. An attacker who manipulated apparent energy demands, forcing 
utilities to turn to emergency -- and more expensive -- energy resources 
could likewise place safe bets in the energy market. "The virtual trader 
basically gambles against the price difference between the day-ahead 
market and the real-time market," said Xie.

Beyond financial remuneration, other leading attack scenarios include 
causing chaos, studying consumers' usage patterns to determine when 
they're on vacation and then burgling their house, or taking out 
sensitive facilities.


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