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
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