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Get off My Grid!
October 21, 2010, 01:31 pm EDT
According to an article in Greentech Media, by the end of 2015, the deployment of smart grid technologies will potentially introduce 440 million hackable points to the energy grid. Some of you may be asking, “What is the smart grid?” Well, the smart grid is only the first major effort to modernize an energy infrastructure that has remained largely unchanged for several decades! The smart grid creates a network between customers and utility companies, providing them increased insight into energy consumption, cost, and workload across the energy grid. Of course, this modernized transformation into a digital process has also made it a prime target, and implementing a smart grid without proper security could result in grid instability, loss of private information, utility fraud, and unauthorized access to energy consumption data.
Your next question may be, “how does this affect me?” Well, by someone hacking into your grid, they may be able to track your energy usage, (aka when you are home or away), they could also redirect or alter your energy usage (aka, your billing information, most likely resulting in a lighter wallet). But you’re in luck, leading energy companies have been investing in new smart metering infrastructures, using the most advanced security protocols in the industry—ultimately protecting you, the consumer.
One such solution involves introducing public key cryptography to an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). AMI uses smart meters to enable a two-way channel of communication between meters and the utility company. Securing this two-way line of communication is imperative and will require a solution for authentication and device attestation to ensure the integrity of the grid—verifying the identity of connected meters, that they are configured correctly, and to validate these meters for network access. The recommended solution for this authentication process is a public key infrastructure (PKI)–PKIs are ideal for large scale security deployments that require a high level of security with minimal impact on performance. In a PKI environment, it is essential that private keys and certificates are guarded with a reliable key management solution that protects against ever-evolving data threats.
Okay, I get it, but what makes PKI infrastructures so secure? Energy players have turned to HSMs for securing the PKI deployments used in Advanced Metering Infrastructures. No, not Zach Efron and his crew from High School Musical! HSMs are Hardware Security Modules; they are the trusted anchor that secures any PKI deployment, a single point of protection. In AMI, the HSM has several roles, using device attestation certificates, the HSM confirms the device down to the manufacturer, the model, the serial number, and that the device has not been tampered with. This provides you with assurance that your energy usage and billing information is accurate, and provides integrity in the grid for the energy service providers. In addition, the HSM has a set of policy controls that dictate who can have access to perform administrative and management functions in the grid, as well as all of the key management operations occur within the secure confines of a hardened appliance—making it the Fort Knox of any sensitive application.
With the proper security protocols in place, using PKI and HSMs, the AMIs will be fully protected, eliminating the 440 million hackable points to the smart grid—keeping the hackers out and making them move on to their next, unsecured target.This entry was posted in Authentication, Compliance, Digital Signatures, Energy, Key Management by Trisha Paine. Bookmark the permalink.
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