Report States Smart Grid Hackers May Cause Blackouts

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photo by AMagill via Flickr CC

It's only a matter of time before new tech breeds new fears of how it could all go horribly wrong. We've arrived at that point with the smart grid. A new report states that tests have shown how hackers have the ability to cause blackouts by breaking into a system. But the worst part is, the first line in the news piece actually questions moving forward with the smart grid.CNN reports some experts are warning the the smart grid should proceed very slowly since there is the possibility of hackers breaking into a smart grid system and causing blackouts.

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.

Instead of moving slowly forward with the smart grid, we suggest moving forward very rapidly on security technology so that this newly identified (and inevitable) fault is fixed. Smart grid industry vendors are doing just that, working with utilities and the government to ensure the systems are as secure as possible. Though there's nothing like some solid fear-based reporting like this to put utility managers on edge.

Still, experts like Skoudis recommended that Smart Grid deployment be slowed until security vulnerabilities are addressed. Otherwise, he said, Smart Grid equipment deployed now may have to be replaced later.

Utility managers are taking heed.

Garry Brown, chairman of New York's Public Service Commission, said he believes the benefits of Smart Grid outweigh the risks, but his state is taking a hard look at cybersecurity before making large investments in the technologies.

If anything, we hope that this only makes vendors more particular about security features, but that it doesn't slow down the implementation of a much needed upgrade to our electrical infrastructure.

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