How vulnerable to hacking is the Smart Grid Business?

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While traditional power grids were captive systems with a centralized control center, smart grids are set to become a network of integrated micro-grids that can monitor and upgrade and restore themselves. Feeding data back into the grid is a necessary prerequisite for such intelligent demand management, but it also means opening Pandora’s box.

A smart grid is a huge, complex network of millions of interconnected devices and entities. ‘SCADA’ networks are often used to link the micro-grids over the Internet. Such a massive network comes with many security concerns and vulnerabilities.

There are two main types of security threat:

1) Technology vulnerability e.g. through denial of service-attacks at internet gateways, malware, internal infrastructure service hacking (DNS poisoning) or zero day exploits.

2) The consumer data profiling necessary for intelligent demand management (e.g. smart meters) could be subject to data protection regulations.

Most data collectors (like smart meters) will be located in unsecure environments such as private households. Can you be sure that collectors have not been tampered with? Will they provide accurate data? Could a virus or malware infect your infrastructure, the whole grid or even shut some parts down? Are you sure that you are the only person with access to the collected data – or is somebody listening in the dark?