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Smart Home Devices and Their Threats to Power Grids
Smart Home Devices and Their Threats to Power Grids
Time icon28 September 2018, 9:09 am

When you install a connected device such as an air conditioner into your home or office, you may be inviting hackers who might be in the position to use the appliance to bring down the power grid. They may also use the device to attack other high profile targets. 

This cautionary comes courtesy of Princeton University security department researchers who are much worried about lack of the security in smart home devices. The researchers mainly focused on the appliances such as water heaters and air conditioners since they have found a botnet that is made up of thousands of connected but easy to hack home devices. If these devices are hacked or compromised, the attackers could lead to large-scale blackouts or even local power outages. 

 

The Contents of the Research 

The researchers discovered that instead of attackers compromising the main supply of the power grid, they could use the high-wattage appliances in a botnet to attack the demand section of the grid. After considering devices such as space heaters, electric ovens, air conditioners and electric water heaters, they found out that when these devices are hacked, they can result to both large-scale power blackouts and local power outages. From the research, the main attack types that have been tested on the simulators of the real-world power grid models are: 

 

Attacks to Increase Operational Costs 

Hackers could have the intention of increasing the operating expenses as opposed to the demanding infrastructure. They used simulations to show how a 5% increase in demand during the peak hours could lead to a 20% increase in the generation expenses. These type of attacks are easily repeatable, but they are difficult to detect. 

 

Attacks to Cause Cascading Power Failures 

Researchers indicated that even a small increase in the power demands might lead to failures and overloads. They used a unit of the power grid polish to show how it can take only a 1% increase in the demand to cause cascading grid failures. They showed how the one per cent could lead to 86% power loads and 236 lines of failures when more than 210,000 air conditioners are used in the attack.

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