We've made a tacit agreement with the Internet to let it handle our business transactions, shopping, and daily communications, and yes, we've also agreed to accept the risk that our online lives could be disturbed by hackers. But once all of our energy use is orchestrated by a smart grid relying on wireless Internet protocols, there's no LifeLock identity-theft protection or malware blocker that can help us.
According to a recently published CNN report, a hacker equipped with just $500 and a background in electronics or software engineering could take control of the entire next-generation electrical grid, allowing him to control smart meters in potentially millions of homes. Once a hacker has access, he could increase the grid's demand for power or cause localized blackouts--something that could create a domino effect of blackouts in other parts of the grid.
With companies such as AT&T and Google pushing for a smart grid rollout, how can we make sure our electricity doesn't get hacked? The answer might just be to slow down the smart grid deployment--but not the development of new technology--until industry standards for security, reliability, and privacy can be worked out. Otherwise, we might end up with billions of dollars in vulnerable, obsolete technology. We can't afford to wait long to update our aging electrical grid, but in this case, a little patience could go a long way.