The decades-old technology used to manage the power grid is vulnerable to manipulation or sabotage, according to a study revealed this week. Attackers could manipulate power-grid data by breaking into substations and intercepting communications between substations, grid operators, and electricity suppliers. This data is used by grid operators to set prices for electricity and to balance supply and demand, the researchers said. Grid hackers could make millions of dollars at the expense of electricity consumers by influencing electricity markets. They could also make the grid unstable, causing blackouts. The attacks would be difficult to trace, according to an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Texas A&M University, speaking at the IEEE SmartGridComm2010 conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Vulnerabilities have existed in grid systems for decades. But the threat is becoming worse as more substations become automated, and unmanned, making it easier for an attacker to access grid data. As utilities move to open communications standards as part of the migration to the “smart grid,” it could get even easier to intercept communications or hack into systems remotely.
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