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Smart Energy / 11. April

Securing the Smart Grid of the Future

In an attempt to fortify conventional infrastructures currently unable to efficiently sustain the sheer amount of power needed to keep the world lighted, climate-controlled and on-line, developers are looking to create so-called smart grids. These imagined smart grids will be conceptually designed to transmit and distribute both energy and information via networks enhanced with digital control, monitoring and telecommunications capabilities. However, because these smart grids are huge and complex networks made up of millions of connections, they pose serious challenges to national security as well as personal privacy.

Today’s smaller, globalized world, makes it easier for sensitive information to be stolen and prohibited access to be gained. Therefore, it is imperative that developers consider these critical issues when designing and building both a reliable and secure smart grid strong enough to protect public infrastructure, sovereign governments, international corporations and private consumers alike.

Preventing a smart grid security breech

Larger, more intricate smart grids, transferring huge amounts of data in real time, could conceivably be compromised by computer-savvy criminals of many sorts. Illegal activities could range from costly petty theft and organized crime to life-threatening cyber terrorism.

In a smart grid, digital smart-meters are used to interface with private consumers. With the simple installation of modified software, cunning homeowners or unscrupulous others with access to smart-meters could potentially manipulate their actual consumption or redirect data to another account.

Unsecure smart grid structures could also furnish criminal elements with a host of high-profit opportunities, including the cyphering of energy, the sale of stolen customer information and the seizure of network control in order to blackmail or collect ransom.

These examples underscore the importance of introducing fail-proof control capabilities and preventative measures into fundamental smart grid design in order to avoid diverse security breeches.

Personal privacy protection issues facing smart grid

At this time, most prototypical smart grid designs have not addressed the issue of data protection. In the days of the internet, with search engines tracking users and individuals sharing private information via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, each person still reserves the right to determine what he in essence publicly “researches” on-line and what he chooses to “post” or “like” within his selected circle of “friends”. 

Therefore, authorities involved in developing smart grid policy must consider these factors when determining the rules and regulations for protecting any and all data collected, used, stored and made available within the smart grid.

By nature of the size of smart grid networks, many new actors needed to facilitate smooth operation will be introduced. Any information being exchanged should therefore be strictly limited to the particular need and authorization of each actor in order to safeguard against the exploitation or manipulation of private personal data.

It is therefore important to identify those responsible for certain tasks and to determine information available to specific actors and for what length of time that data can be accessed. The ideal situation would guarantee that providers gather, process and store all information in a responsible and transparent manner while implementing encryption methods to ensure consumers data anonymity.

In response to these concerns, any sharing of personal data which is collected, exchanged or stored within the smart grid should be strictly prohibited, according to relevant laws already in place to protect personal data and prohibit customer profiling.

In order to persuade the public that rules will indeed be followed and those responsible will be unequivocally held accountable, developers must establish a new authoritative agency specifically obligated to protecting and securing all private data within any smart grid scenario.

Innovative solutions to secure the smart grid

Smart grid security demands sophisticated solutions to complex problems.   Therefore, technology experts, service providers, component manufacturers and regulatory authorities must work together to develop a solid and secure smart grid architecture able to deliver a reliable stream of cost-competitive electrical power while preventing security breeches and protecting individual privacy. 

TÜV Rheinland experts stand by your side to face the new challenges that accompany the development of smart grids. Do not hesitate to contact us!

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