FBI says smart meter hacks on the rise (and all you need is a magnet?)


By Jesse Berst


In Homer's Iliad, Cassandra's warnings are ignored but later come true. In American folklore, Chicken Little warns that the sky is falling but it later proves false.


We've been getting a string of proclamations about the terrible state of smart grid security. Many of them come from security firms with a vested interest in scaring people. They remind me of similar warnings 15 years ago about Internet security, most of which never came true.


What about today's warnings? The KrebsonSecurity blog - written by former Washington Post reporter Brian Krebs - details an FBI investigation of a series of hacks against a Puerto Rican utility's smart meters. Krebs writes:


"Citing confidential sources, the FBI said it believes former employees of the meter manufacturer and employees of the utility were altering the meters in exchange for cash and training others to do so.'These individuals are charging $300 to $1,000 to reprogram residential meters, and about $3,000 to reprogram commercial meters,' the alert states."


The blog goes on to reveal tools being used to hack the meters, including magnets.


You may also remember not long ago we ran a piece titled A how-to guide for hacking your local utility (and what to do now that it is out there).In it, EnerNex Chairman and CTO Erich Gunther examined what might have motivated a well-known cyber security researcher to release detailed vulnerabilities for specific, critical infrastructure products.


So what do you think of these warnings? Do they come from Cassandras -- legitimate prophets who will be proven correct? Or are they Chicken Littles, needlessly worrying people?


That's our topic this week in the Tuesday Topic discussion forum. We're hoping you'll join in.


Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid He consults to smart grid companies seeking market entry advice and M&A advisory. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the US and abroad, he also serves on the Advisory Council of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Energy & Environment directorate.