Security researchers have their eyes on the electric grid at the upcoming Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. In separate talks, researchers will highlight some of the threats and concerns facing plans to deploy smart grid technology - and what can be done about them.
Two security researchers
are calling for the utility industry to pay close attention to securing smart
grid technology as the nation upgrades its power infrastructure.
In separate presentations
next week at the Black Hat security conference, researchers Mike Davis and Tony
Flick will be making the case that the energy industry has work to do when it
comes to security.
"A lot of the security
issues that are popping up are kind of frightening, and we're sort of pushing
the idea of more security review, more generalized security
engineering...reviews, source code audits, the whole sort of works has to apply
to these meters as well as they apply to everything else," said Davis, senior
security consultant at IOActive.
The calls for better
security come three months after reports
surfaced of attackers targeting the
grid. In his presentation,
Davis plans to identify
vulnerabilities he and a team of IOActive researchers uncovered on smart meter
"Generally the smart grid
wouldn't have much to do with security just as a stupid sensor network,"
Davis said. "The problem
is a lot of these companies are putting a lot of effort into adding a bunch of
sort of whiz bang features that they believe the various utilities are going to
want. For example, the thing that sort of alarms us the most is that they're
adding relays to a lot of these smart meters - basically the ability for the
meter itself to turn itself on and off based on a remote command from central
"The sort of idea that
they're [pursuing] this with is that if customers don't pay their bills, they
can disconnect them and then when they do pay their bill they can reconnect
them immediately, nobody has to wait...that now means these meters have an extremely
high value as a target," he added.
Like Davis, Flick contends more security
needs to be built into smart grid initiatives and technology. Using the city of
Miami's plans to roll out a citywide
smart grid infrastructure by 2011 as an entry point, he plans to discuss the
development of standards for securing smart grid technology.
The National Institute of
Standards and Technology has already released a three-phase
plan for developing standards for the technology, but Flick predicts the
standards will face some of the same security concerns surrounding PCI-
(Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) - particularly if
organizations are left to police themselves. In the end, security needs to be
built into smart grid projects from start to finish, he added.
Both Flick and Davis are scheduled to give their
talks July 30. For additional information about the conference, visit the Black Hat Website.