Forum: Power Hackers; October 2010; Scientific American Magazine; by Melissa Hathaway; 1 Page(s)
President Barack Obama’s talk about the need for a “smart grid” sounds, well, smart. What’s not to like about the idea of an electricity grid that can work at top efficiency? By wrapping power transmission lines in advanced information technologies and the Internet, a smart grid would enable us to integrate alternative energy sources such as rooftop solar panels and local wind turbines into the power supply, balance supply with demand and optimize the flow of power to each consumer—even down to the level of individual appliances. It would vastly improve the reliability, availability and efficiency of the electric system. As currently envisaged, however, it’s a dangerously dumb idea.
The problem is cybersecurity. Achieving greater efficiency and control requires hooking almost every aspect of the electricity grid up to the Internet—from the smart meter that will go into each home to the power transmission lines themselves. Connecting what are now isolated systems to the Internet will make it possible to gain access to remote sites through the use of modems, wireless networks, and both private and public networks. And yet little is being done to make it all secure.