Vulnerabilities / Threats
10/11/2010
08:01 PM
50%
50%

Smart Grids Offer Cyber Attack Opportunities

Hackers are likely to exploit the 440 million potential targets researchers predict smart grids will offer by 2015.




Image Gallery: IBM Empowers Smarter Cities
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)
Is your home electricity meter the next device you have to worry about getting hacked? Researchers at last week's IEEE SmartGridComm2010 conference in Gaithersburg, Md., warned that as utilities transition to greater use of smart grids, their increased two-way communication would leave consumers and suppliers open to more forms of cyber attack. In fact, by 2015, they estimated, the smart grid will offer up to 440 million potential points to be hacked.

Why mess with someone's home heating bill? One significant worry is that intercepting and manipulating smart grid data could provide attackers with the means to benefit financially, said Le Xie, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Texas A&M University, according to published reports.

For example, utilities typically plan their energy requirements one day in advance. An attacker who manipulated apparent energy demands, forcing utilities to turn to emergency -- and more expensive -- energy resources could likewise place safe bets in the energy market. "The virtual trader basically gambles against the price difference between the day-ahead market and the real-time market," said Xie.

Beyond financial remuneration, other leading attack scenarios include causing chaos, studying consumers' usage patterns to determine when they're on vacation and then burgling their house, or taking out sensitive facilities.

Another difficulty is that like SCADA systems, today's smart grid systems may have a lifespan of 10 or 20 years. During that time, their built-in security, if any, will become widely known and disseminated. In other words, today's new smart grid meter could be 2030's cyber-catastrophe, or at least give rise to some new variation on Stuxnet.

Accordingly, numerous moves are afoot to help nail the security of smart grids in their infancy. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, notably, has been developing a framework for creating interoperable as well as secure smart grids and related systems.

Last month, the Department of Energy also announced awards of more than $30 million to utility cybersecurity projects. "These awards help us make a significant leap forward to strengthen the security and reliability of the nation's electric grid, in a climate of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a statement.

"The development of technologies that can provide defense-in-depth cyber-security solutions, and increased insight from private-public collaborations, will allow us to better protect the nation's energy delivery systems that keep our lights on and the power flowing," he said.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-2208
Published: 2014-12-28
CRLF injection vulnerability in the LightProcess protocol implementation in hphp/util/light-process.cpp in Facebook HipHop Virtual Machine (HHVM) before 2.4.2 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands by entering a \n (newline) character before the end of a string.

CVE-2014-2209
Published: 2014-12-28
Facebook HipHop Virtual Machine (HHVM) before 3.1.0 does not drop supplemental group memberships within hphp/util/capability.cpp and hphp/util/light-process.cpp, which allows remote attackers to bypass intended access restrictions by leveraging group permissions for a file or directory.

CVE-2014-5386
Published: 2014-12-28
The mcrypt_create_iv function in hphp/runtime/ext/mcrypt/ext_mcrypt.cpp in Facebook HipHop Virtual Machine (HHVM) before 3.3.0 does not seed the random number generator, which makes it easier for remote attackers to defeat cryptographic protection mechanisms by leveraging the use of a single initial...

CVE-2014-6228
Published: 2014-12-28
Integer overflow in the string_chunk_split function in hphp/runtime/base/zend-string.cpp in Facebook HipHop Virtual Machine (HHVM) before 3.3.0 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (application crash) or possibly have unspecified other impact via crafted arguments to the chunk_split ...

CVE-2014-6229
Published: 2014-12-28
The HashContext class in hphp/runtime/ext/ext_hash.cpp in Facebook HipHop Virtual Machine (HHVM) before 3.3.0 incorrectly expects that a certain key string uses '\0' for termination, which allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information by leveraging read access beyond the end of the string,...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.