Smart grid security: Are wireless networks our weakest link?

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Quick Take:  The brainiacs at Phys.org are out with an article claiming that wireless networks have been exposed as the grid's weakest link. I'm not so sure, given all the other weak spots that abound -- SCADA gear and embedded systems and so on, not to mention social engineering (tricking people into giving up passwords or other sensitive information). But I thought you'd want to read their reasoning, much of which comes from Professor Craig Valli, Director of the ECU Security Research Institute. Short summary below or click the link to jump to the full piece. - By Jesse Berst

 

The same smart meters that aim to revolutionize electric power may also be the grid's biggest security flaw. That's because the meters often rely on "inherently insecure wireless networks" says Professor Craig Valli, Director of the ECU Security Research Institute.

 

"There's a lot of economic benefit to this but the security around it sucks," he says.

 

Valli claims the problem is not so much the networks, as the people operating them. "A lot of it is poor implementation, there's an unwillingness to put in a lot of the available controls." He and several colleagues were able to use eavesdropping software to intercept smart meter communications.

 

In theory, cyber criminals could penetrate the network to shut off power to a building or an entire neighborhood. They could also corrupt the smart meters, making it harder to restore power.

 

Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.

 

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