The not so smart, smart grid: Potential security risks associated with the deployment of smart grid technologies

The electricity grid has been up until now a relatively stable artifice of modern industrialized nations. The power grids are the most widespread wired networks in the world. They are heavily regulated and standardized to protect the integrity, stability and reliability of supply. The grids have been essentially closed systems, this is now rapidly changing with the introduction of the network enabled smart meter. These meters are “web” accessible, connect and interact directly with electrical appliances in domiciles and businesses. This move now brings a range of extreme risks and complexities into these stable networks. This paper explores the security issues and potential problems associated with current moves to provide these smart meters to existing grid connections.

Craig Valli, Edith Cowan University

Full research paper found at: http://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1062&context=adf

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9 Responses to The not so smart, smart grid: Potential security risks associated with the deployment of smart grid technologies

  1. Wendy says:

    http://econews.com.au/news-to-sustain-our-world/flexible-electricity-prices-coming-for-victorians/
    The above is another spin in favour of smart meters. I do not believe we will truly have a choice of going back to flat pricing once these monsters are installed!

  2. Rob Guy says:

    Neither ESV or DPI seem to have any information on software reliability. Neither do they seem to have the organisation structure or technical skills to assess the suppliers’ diligence in performing software reliability engineering during design phases of the AMI program. Hopefully, ESV or DPI can let a contract to an Australian software firm to assess available reports and source code. An example would be to test a sample of modules for interconnectivity of branching loops.
    For those not aware of software testing, this is akin to setting out hundreds of set mouse traps on a ballroom floor each loaded with a table tennis ball. As you increase the packing density, (ie connectivity), the setup approaches fatal instabil;ity. Similar to a software crash. ESV and DPI might need expert advice before entering this area.

  3. Rob Guy says:

    Even harder to understand is the Victorian Government’s decision to give lead agency status to ESV and DPI, two bodies with no demonstrated organisation or competency to oversee the procurement of the software component in a large scale hardware infrastructure program. Our inability to ensure a strong suite of software for the smart meter rollout might come back to haunt us.
    Robin G

  4. Well Aware says:

    In plain and simple terms : If it aint broke, don’t fix it! You may get far more than you bargained for…

  5. Archie says:

    How about if UNAUTHORISED access was gained by criminals? Would we all be at risk of burglary & worse?

  6. Rob Guy says:

    G’Day Craig
    I have only a nodding acquaintance with software security which I see as one of the black arts. My thanks for your paper which threw considerable light on a complex problem carrying serious risk to this country’s welfare. Specific measures to ensure security should of course remain confidential, but here are a few thoughts:
    1. Much of industry uses statistical sampling theory to match supply to demand. , Matching price and demand for electrical power to within predictable limits does not require a measure of every consumer’s power consumption -a poll of demand from a statistically derived sample would suffice and cut computer time.. Consumers would be protected from hostile attack because successive samples would not show an individual’s consumption pattern. In the same way, flocks of wild birds coordinate their flight patterns to confuse predators.
    2. Distributors should follow normal commercial practice by broadcasting their price variations by region in advance and un-encrypted. Consumers should not have to pay to see the price of the service they are about to buy and still use their PCs to adjust consumption.
    3. If not already done, data packets could be interleaved with random numbers to confuse packet-sniffers.
    4. The microprocessors in smart meters should have sufficient memory to hold a running total of the fee for the previous week or longer. Distributors need then to poll the meter for that sum at a time-of-day set at random by the previous poll. Each poll would leave the meter deaf and dumb, making intrusion much more difficult..
    Cheers, RobinG

  7. Here are others: 20/03/12 SMART METERS – SMARTER PRACTICES Vulnerability to Space Weather, Manmade EMP & Cyber Attack
    The use of Smart Meters instead of analogue meters may also increase risk, as they are more likely to be damaged by solar events.

    As noted by Anderson & Fuloria, one of the gravest of these risks is that of “a ‘cyber-nuke’through the Smart Meters that would reduce a country’s population to destitution.
    This risk does not exist with analogue meters.
    http://www.radiationresearch.org/images/Documents/addendum_emp__cyber_security_120320.pdf

    April 12, 2012 Hacking Expert David Chalk Joins Urgent Call to Halt Smart Grid
    The vulnerability of the energy industry’s new wireless smart grid will inevitably lead to lights out for everyone, according to leading cyber expert David Chalk.”100% certainty of catastrophic failure of energy grid within 3 years”
    http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20120412005992/en/Hacking-Expert-David-Chalk-Joins-Urgent-Call
    June 2012 David Chalk on cyber-terrorism, potential collapse of power grid,

    Cia director calls smart grid really really stupid
    “And a so-called ‘Smart Grid’ that is as vulnerable as what we’ve got is not smart at all, it’s a really, really stupid grid.”
    http://stopsmartmeters.org.uk/cia-director-calls-smart-grid-really-really-stupid/
    July 29, 2010 Security Vulnerabilities of Smart Electricity Meters The off switch creates information security problems of a kind, and on a scale, that the energy companies have not had to face before. From the viewpoint of a cyber attacker — whether a hostile government agency, a terrorist organisation or even a militant environmental group — the ideal attack on a target country is to interrupt its citizens’ electricity supply. This is the cyber equivalent of a nuclear strike; when electricity stops, then pretty soon everything else does too.
    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/07/security_vulner.html

    March 15, 2012 CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher
    All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time”.
    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/03/petraeus-tv-remote/

    • Pam says:

      Archie, Rob and Marni – This is starting to get beyond me I have just watched in part David Chalk’s Video, posted by Marni and it scares me to death. Please WHAT CAN BE DONE??? if anything to STOP THE INSTALLATION OF THESE BLOODY SMART METERS. Are there too many of them now???? All the other States are looking to see what happens in Victoria. We find out the information and Post it. We all know what is going on to a point (as I said it is all getting beyond me technically). I WON’T HAVE A SMART METER OR ANYTHING ELSE THAT IS “SMART”. and I will not be bullied or forced to have one either………………Cheers everyone …Pam

  8. Pam says:

    This Post again reinforces what we all know to be true—–No Smart Meter for me EVER…………CHEERS ….PAM 🙂

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