Energy providers and governments worldwide are looking for ways to upgrade their energy systems. A big part of these efforts is the smart grid concept, which introduces networking and automation across the electrical system.
The smart grid can give consumers and suppliers alike better monitoring and control of power consumption, leading to increased reliability, higher efficiency, and lower costs. However, computerization and connectivity bring with them the threat of security breaches and attacks.
The threats to the smart grid were illustrated in 2009, when researchers at IOActive infiltrated and controlled smart meters remotely, using a concerted cyber attack. They were able to take over a device, display a message on its LCD screen, and spread the attack from meter to meter.
Although these researchers did not cause any damage, it is easy to imagine a similar attack causing widespread havoc by disconnecting homes and businesses from the grid. The smart grid also presents the risk of exposing information to unauthorized users. Data at risk includes:
- Diagnostic information
- Maintenance information
- Identification (potentially including personal information)
- Billing data
- System status
Protecting the operation of the grid and the related data flows is critical for the success of smart grid initiatives. One way to improve security is to separate critical and confidential portions of the system from non-critical, non-confidential parts. This article describes how to accomplish this goal using secure hypervisors and Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT).