As smart grid evolves, closer attention is needed to security and privacy

My Clean Break column yesterday takes a look at an overlooked issue on the smart-grid file: privacy and security. Last week Toronto Hydro disclosed that 179,000 customer online accounts had been illegally accessed, along with some personal information. Now, this could have happened to any Web site that gives online access to billing — retailers, banks, your phone or cable company — so this isn’t directly a “smart grid” issue. What it highlights, however, is that utilities are a target like anyone else, and could increasingly be a target as they deploy smart meters and begin to offer energy-management services through the Web. How much energy we use at various times of the day can, surprisingly, say a lot about you and your home. For one, it can tell someone you’re not home. And it can allow someone to track your activities throughout the day. As I point out in the column, the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas last week showed just how easy it can be to remotely infiltrate a network of smart meters and seize control. Of course, we also have to worry about the upstream as well, keeping security issues top of mind  as we modernize our transmission systems. This is critical infrastructure, and with more and more points of access being created to enable the “smart grid,” this infrastructure will be increasingly vulnerable to attack.

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