Tag Archives: smart grid

Smart Meters Make Us Dumb

Smart MeterSo what did Shakespeare mean, when he wrote “A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Simply this  –  what something is, matters; not what it is called.

I can’t recall that electric meters were ever referred to as “dumb meters”, nevertheless, we now have a new breed of meters that the industry is calling “smart meters”. But are they really?

More to the point, are we being smart in adopting this new technology without a complete and probing review of the security implications posed by the rush to implement this technology? (I was forced to accept the installation of a smart meter earlier this year).

Smart Meters, on the face of it, sound ultra cool.  A Smart Meter, by definition, can monitor electricity usage and communicate with your electricity supplier. The supplier will then bill you on factors that include your consumption, cost adjusted, based on the time of day and the season. Use during high demand, or peak periods, will cost more money.

The stated objective is – billing consumers by how much electricity is consumed, and at what time of day, will force us to adjust our consumption habits to be more responsive to perceived savings, or additional costs. Hopefully, according to energy gurus, this will delay or eliminate the construction of additional generating facilities, and the associated environmental costs.

So what could be the downside to getting on board the speeding locomotive called the “green movement”, which is designed (we’re told), to make all of us more environmentally conscious?

Well here’s the rub with smart meters – according to industry sources, communication technologies being considered, or already in use for smart meters, include cell and pager networks, licensed radio or unlicensed radio, power line communication, and others.

So here’s my question – haven’t we learned anything when it comes to cost benefit and risk association?

The one indisputable commonality of communication technologies is this: each and every one can be intercepted, or hacked – and hacked easily.

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Should we worry, should we be concerned, that the major lifeline (try living without electricity), to our way of life can, or will, be compromised? You bet!

In a recent article “Building the Smart Grid: Proven Methods to Secure the Future” by Joshua Pennell and Michael Davis, of security firm IOActive

They wrote:

“IOActive researchers were able to identify multiple programming errors on a series of smart meter platforms ranging from the inappropriate use of banned functions to protocol implementation issues.

The research team was able to “weaponize” these attack vectors, and create an in-flash rootkit, which allowed them to assume full system control of all exposed smart meter capabilities, including remote power on, power off, usage reporting, and communication configurations.

The initial attack vector could also be leveraged to deploy a worm, much like the Blaster worm that wreaked havoc on computer systems in 2003. The consequences of such threats are potentially widespread and devastating”.

Still not convinced; then read the CNN report by Jeanne Meserve, CNN Homeland Security Correspondent, “Smart Grid may be vulnerable to hackers

Excerpt:

…… cyber security experts said some types of meters can be hacked, as can other points in the Smart Grid’s communications systems. IOActive, a professional security services firm, determined that an attacker with $500 of equipment and materials and a background in electronics and software engineering could “take command and control of the (advanced meter infrastructure) allowing for the en-masse manipulation of service to homes and businesses.”

Experts said that once in the system, a hacker could gain control of thousands, even millions, of meters and shut them off simultaneously.

A hacker also might be able to dramatically increase or decrease the demand for power, disrupting the load balance on the local power grid and causing a blackout. These experts said such a localized power outage would cascade to other parts of the grid, expanding the blackout. No one knows how big it could get.

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Not worried yet? Then you should be. If you’re unfamiliar with the prevalence of hacking and cybercrime, let me offer you this quote from my good friend TechPaul, “The Internet shadow economy is worth over $105 billion/year.  No country, no person, no business and no government is immune from Cybercrime”.

I find it impossible to believe that cyber criminals will not take advantage of the enormous attack surface that smart meters will present. These are the same cyber criminals, who frequently hold individual Internet connected computers for ransom using a vicious form of malware.

I don’t know about you, but I’m very tired of being held as a “hostage to fortune” in a present, and a future, created by and large, by the same illogical thinking patterns and by the same careless people (I’m being kind here), who in many cases, are responsible for the economic meltdown we are now forced to deal with.

Whatever happened to the application of logic? We need to stop listening to these morons – right now. They certainly don’t have your best interest at heart.

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4 Comments

Filed under Application Vulnerabilities, Don't Get Hacked, Green Living, Interconnectivity, Networking, Personal Perspective, Ransomware, Smart Meters, System Security

Smart Meters – How Dumb Are They?

smart-electricity-meter Several weeks ago while writing a report for a client; I was interrupted by my local electricity company who asked that I shut down my machines so that they could install a “Smart Meter”, on my electricity service.

Smart Meters to monitor electricity usage are just one of the latest technology advances to ensure we take the “green movement” seriously. A Smart Meter, by definition, can communicate with your electricity supplier who will then bill you, based on factors that include your electrical consumption based on the time of day and the season.

The stated objective is – billing consumers by how much electricity is consumed, and at what time of day, will force us to adjust our consumption habits to be more responsive to perceived savings, or additional costs. Hopefully, according to energy gurus, this will delay the construction of additional generation facilities.

Pretty cool – right? So what could be the downside to getting on board the speeding locomotive called the “green movement”, which is designed to make all of us more environmentally conscious? Or so we’re told.

Well here’s the rub – according to industry sources, communication technologies being considered, or already in use, include cell and pager networks, licensed radio or unlicensed radio, power line communication, and in my view, the most startling of all – the use of TCP/IP technology as a widespread communication method for Smart Meter applications.

TCP/IP technology has been with us since the 1970’s, and the one thing we know about this technology is – it can be hacked easily. So, of course, can all of the other technologies either in use, or being considered as a communication platform for Smart Meters.

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Should we worry, should we be concerned, that the major lifeline (try living without electricity), to our way of life can, or will, be compromised? You bet!

In a recent article “Building the Smart Grid: Proven Methods to Secure the Future” by Joshua Pennell and Michael Davis, of security firm IOActive they wrote:

“IOActive researchers were able to identify multiple programming errors on a series of smart meter platforms ranging from the inappropriate use of banned functions to protocol implementation issues.

The research team was able to “weaponize” these attack vectors, and create an in-flash rootkit, which allowed them to assume full system control of all exposed smart meter capabilities, including remote power on, power off, usage reporting, and communication configurations.

The initial attack vector could also be leveraged to deploy a worm, much like the Blaster worm that wreaked havoc on computer systems in 2003. The consequences of such threats are potentially widespread and devastating”.

Scary stuff to say the least!

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m very tired of being held as a hostage to fortune in a present, and a future, created by and large, by the same illogical thinking patterns and by the same idiots who, in many cases, are responsible for the economic meltdown we are now facing.

Whatever happened to the application of logic?

I’ll leave it up to you as to what you see as the solution to this untenable situation.

5 Comments

Filed under Communication, Interconnectivity, Living Life, Networking, Personal Perspective, Smart Meters