Sunday, September 13, 2009

Smart Meters, Privacy Alarms and Alarmists

While often related, cyber security and privacy also have distinct lives all their own. The recent musings of Philadelphia staff writer Andrew Maykuth and some of the folks he interviews heighten fears of the coming Smart Grid without the slightest allegation of system vulnerability or reliance on the repetitive use of the word "Hackers." Instead, he gives us Orwell:
Meters could record material so frequently that power flows could be interpreted like DNA to reveal unique electrical signatures of individual appliances. Some experts imagine an Orwellian future in a carbon-constrained world, where consumers are cited for excessive electricity use, or divorce lawyers comb through meter records and ask: Who used the hot tub while the spouse was away? "The privacy implications are astounding," said Susan L. Lyon, a Seattle lawyer who specializes in data-security issues. She compared the smart grid's potential benefits - and risks - with those of the Internet.
... and Godzilla:
The drive to retool the United States' electricity generation and distribution networks may inadvertently raise a monster with unparalleled abilities to invade residential privacy," Elias Leake Quinn, a research analyst at the Center for Energy and Environmental Security in Boulder, CO.
This isn't security. This isn't even social engineering. It's business functionality pure and simple. We are in the early days of deciding how we want this software to run (and not run) and what kinds of data are accessible by different organizations. If you don't like the coordinates we seem to be heading towards, get involved early and often.

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