Smart Grid Security

Since the grid was first implemented in the US residents have stolen energy through various methods such as bypassing meters, using strong permanent magnets to slow meters down and inverting meters for a few days so that they run backwards. Committing malicious disruptions to the grid is relatively easy. Many substations in the US and the rest of the world are not well guarded and a man with a gun could easily fire several shots and bring the grid to a standstill. On a par with a tree fall or bad weather conditions causing disruptions to the grid system.

Several attacks on energy assets have been reported in recent years. Already there have been reported attacks on the US grid system from China and Russia, with the US Intelligence service rather than the utilities discovering most of the attacks. One major issue for the prosecution of cyber attacks is that the perpetrators of the crime may be located in a different country to where the attack occurred.

On a small scale neighbour could turn off another neighbour’s power supply. Moving up rogue groups could cause widespread power outages or co-ordinate power outages to attack sensitive facilities. At the largest scale government’s could remotely shut down smart meters to meet energy saving targets or to control national dissent.
It has been reported that only 300,000 or 12% of Pacific Gas & Electric’s 2.5 million installed smart meters have their remote disconnect function disabled. Therefore these meters with the setting still enabled in Northern California could be disabled remotely. This could result in the utility disabling meters for minor infractions such as missing a one bill payment.

Alternately, a computer worm could be used to move from meter to meter. Then control all the meters in the grid by remotely shutting down the meters or affecting communication between the utility and the consumer. Or hackers could impersonate meters to inflate bills, lower bills (energy theft) or get into the utility’s network and steal data or commit a large scale attack.