A little while ago, Fox News ran a fear-mongering article on the dangers to the Obama Smart Grid plan:
Obama's economic stimulus package allocates $4.5 billion to modernize the nation's electricity system and put smart-grid technology on the fast track.Terrorists!
But creating a two-way line of communication between homes and the grid — however "smart" it may be — has its risks, experts say.
"With smart grid, anybody with an eBay account and $80 can go and buy a smart meter, reverse-engineer it and figure out how to attack the grid," said Josh Pennell, president and CEO of IOActive, a technology research firm in Seattle, who testified before the Department of Homeland Security last week.
On the other hand, he said, "If people are going to attack a power grid right now, it would need to be a very well-funded operation."
Pennell envisions low-level hackers trying to steal customer data for the purposes of fraud — or an international terrorist group infiltrating the grid and causing a massive power blackout.
There have already been several instances of hackers breaking into foreign power grids and holding the electricity supply for ransom, a CIA analyst told a conference of utility engineers last year, according to the Associated Press.
Today, The WSJ reiterrates that this is not a specific threat to the Smart Grid, but rather an ongoing threat:
WASHINGTON -- Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.And it makes sense that entities would want to rummage around a little in our grid. But would then a Smart Grid not be more safe from attack than what we have now? Similar to how the decentralized nature of a Smart Grid guards from widespread power outages due to weather or demand, would it also not be more capable of guarding against attack?
The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven't sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.
"The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid," said a senior intelligence official. "So have the Russians."
The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn't target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official. "There are intrusions, and they are growing," the former official said, referring to electrical systems. "There were a lot last year."