Monday, December 7, 2009

The Smart Grid Security Confidence Game

You may not know Ira Winkler from a hole in the wall. Or know the difference between Ira Winkler and Henry Winkler ... heyyy !!! But you should know this: Winkler, a well-known and generally well respected IT security pundit, recently published an opinion piece in Computerworld called "The hackability of the smart grid". In it, he lists six types of trouble he claims hackers will likely be able to cause to the future "Smart Grid":
  • Cutting electricity to homes and businesses
  • Overburdening the grid
  • Causing brown-outs
  • Having smart-grid devices attack the grid itself
  • Getting free service
  • Undermining confidence
To be sure, while all of the above are plausible and serious, it's the last one, related to confidence, which could ultimately have the biggest impact on Smart Grid operators and other stakeholders.

It seems to me like there's a vacuum out there where only pundits dwell. Wouldn't it be excellent if some of the utilities could be more forward leaning and get out in front of this issue?!? Messages on the thorough measures they're taking to protect the grid and their customers might help. But so far they're not saying much, and until they do, folks like Winkler are the ones exhibiting their confident predictions that rough days are in store for the young Smart Grid and that the utilities are playing marketing defense, not working to shore up their security and privacy weak spots with vigor.

Says Winkler:
The power companies don't like it when people say things like this, as they showed by attacking me after my previous exposé of power-grid vulnerabilities. So far, though, every claim I made has been proved correct by documented attacks or government reports. Sadly, I know that I will be proved right once again.
I hope he's wrong, but you know what they say about hope. Hope is not a strategy ... for protecting the Smart Grid. Let's hear it utilities execs ... we know you're busy working these issues, but please take a minute to tell the public what you are doing to prove Winkler wrong (Ira, not Henry).

Photo Credit: Igor Bespamyatnov @ Flickr

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