The stupid side of the smart grid

The smart grid might open up new ways for hackers to plague us. Brian Krebs, writing in the Washington Post, notes the U.S. government attached a security string to $3.9 billion in smart grid grants. Krebs wrote, for instance, that

Smart meters give consumers direct access to information about their power usage and the ability to manage that usage over the Web, but that two-way communication also opens up the possibility that the grid could be attacked from the outside. Many such systems require little authentication to carry out key functions, such as disconnecting customers from the power grid.

If smart grid insecurity just knocks homeowners off the grid, most of us get sent back to the 19th century for a while, then go out and refill the refrigerator. That qualifies as a hacker parlor game.
Yes, organized groups might blackmail us to keep our power flowing. But look what they’ve done with computer networks — most damage comes from the people who don’t beat their chests at having taken over. Smart grid insecurity will probably work the same way. If these tools can help capture personal data and raid our bank accounts, then they will be used that way. Let’s hope the government sets the bar high enough to matter. “Taking steps to prevent cyberattacks” does not warm my heart.

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