The U.S. power grid is in the process of an enormous transformation into a smart grid – an advanced, digital infrastructure with two-way capabilities for communicating information, controlling equipment and distributing energy. However, while this new infrastructure could increase energy efficiency and reliability while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it also brings myriad risks that the critical infrastructure industry may not be prepared for.
According to Security Implications of the Smart Grid, a report from Marie Wright, PhD, of Western Connecticut State University, and Robert Billings, Jr., B.A., of Billings Electric, the shift to a smart grid infrastructure means that power companies will be using more IP-based communications and commercial, off-the-shelf technologies. “While these reduce costs and increase compatibility between different vendors’ components, they also increase the likelihood of successful IP-based network attacks, such as IP spoofing and distributed denial of service attacks.”
These attacks could cause “false control signals to be transmitted, readings from smart meters to be fabricated, protective relays to be disabled, and load balances to become disrupted,” the report says, adding to the risks of consumer fraud, insider attacks, or terrorist or nation-state attacks on the electric infrastructure.