There is a relatively new and emerging threat to the power grid – electric car charging stations. No, the gas pump alternatives will not drain too much juice from the frail infrastructure; the stations present a far more challenging problem. The smart grid friendly electric car charging stations increase the power grid’s vulnerability to cyber hackers.
Cyber hackers could use the electrical car charging stations to cripple the power grid by “confusing” the system. During the Hack in the Box Conference in Amsterdam, an HP ArcSight product manager highlighted the many, many, many things which could go wrong as electric car chargers continue to dot the landscape.
Ofer Shezaf noted that the charging stations are essentially a computer on the street. The roadside stations are not only a street computer, but a link into the surrounding electrical system. The “smart charging” stations connect to the power grid in a manner designed to distribute energy evenly to the area while making sure demand does not overload the system.
The current design is a cyber hacker’s dream set-up. If hackers gained access to electrical car charging stations, they could alter or stop the flow of power in specific areas. Even though the antiquated electrical systems could not be shut down in one fell swoop like a solar flare or EMP could accomplish, the impact would be just as devastating. A coordinated electrical car charging station attack by hackers could ultimately leave the entire nation in the dark.
Although vehicle charging stations are few and far between in America now, the threat still exists. Unless steps are taken soon to boost security on the roadside systems, mass production without concern for potential disaster will continue. A total of 360 electric vehicle-charging stations were recently purchased in New York, but Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to help reduce the use of fossil fuel could spur an even larger problem for residents. The initial purchase of the stations is only part of a larger plan to install 3,000 public refueling systems in the next five years. The first of the systems will be installed at major transportation hubs in New York City.
Cyber hackers could be practicing on the car charging stations right now. Anyone with the funds to buy a station can have one of their own. The horrific explosions at the Boston Marathon should have reminded us how quickly and easily a man-made disaster can occur in America.
While electrical charging stations are still a relatively new concept, the refueling venues are expected to become commonplace during the next decade. The roadside smart charging systems will reportedly offer easier access into the power grid for hackers. Since multiple charging stations will be inner-connected, a hacker with a laptop can simply pull up in a vehicle and try to gain access into the system virtually undetected.
As I have stated repeatedly, the attention span of the general populace and government officials is woefully short and may ultimately lead to the downfall of our society. Casually shrugging off concerns about the vulnerability of the power grid as prepper paranoia is much easier than actually working to solve the problem. I strongly encourage everyone to create and then email, a list of the “Top 10 Things You Could No Longer Do If the Power Grid Failed” to your elected officials. Pressuring lawmakers to think about power grid vulnerabilities is the only way the matter will ever make it into a piece of legislation.