Smart Grid Security: Remembering Aurora


You know a topic has suddenly gone mainstream when 60 Minutes directs its in-depth lens on it. Last night the CBS News show aired a piece called Sabotaging the System, which takes a look at the very real threat that cyber hackers pose on the power grid. What struck me most from the show was that there are actually already quite a few documented cases of damage done to the power grid using IT networks.

One of the most famous, points out 60 Minutes, happened at the Department of Energy’s Idaho lab back in 2007. Dubbed the “Aurora” project, CNN released this video (shown above) that year and now thanks to YouTube we can watch it over and over again on the Internets.

The video shows the results of researchers hacking into the communications of a generator remotely and changing its controls so that it malfunctions and starts spewing spoke. Scary stuff, when you consider the entire power grid in the U.S. is set to be connected to digital networks over the next several years.

And that’s just in the lab. The show goes on to explain that Brazil’s power grid is thought to have been shut down twice for several days at a time from cyberhacking, the first in 2005 and then in 2007, and the latter event ended up effecting 3 million people.

As we’ve mentioned before, I think the computing and smart grid industries are actually doing a pretty good job of addressing these security problems. But keeping the threats (and this video) at front of mind will only help to keep that positive work going.

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