Saturday, August 19, 2017

Smart Cars Under Attack- What Does it Mean for Power Systems?

We are quite often looking for smart things: cars, phones, power grids, ... expecting they make life easier or more comfortable. May be ... or may not be.
We have to understand and take into account that most of these smart things are under enormous pressure to become hacked.
Researchers have reported that "Smart car makers are faced with a potentially lethal hack that cannot be fixed with a conventional software security update. The hack is believed to affect all smart cars and could enable an attacker to turn off safety features, such as airbags, ABS brakes and power-steering or any of a vehicle’s computerised components connected to its controller area network (Can) bus. ... The hack is “currently indefensible by modern car security technology, and to completely resolve it would require broad, sweeping changes in standards and the ways in-vehicle
networks and devices are made,”"
Click HERE for the full report on computerweekly.
Click HERE for another detailed report also worth to read and FOLLOW.

Hm, that is no good news!

I hope that the power industry is using appropriate (security) standards to dramatically reduce the risk to hack devices used in power automation systems. One of them is IEC 62351. There are many other measures discussed on this block, e.g., the German BDEW Whitebook.
How many more wake-up calls do we need to change our ways how to secure energy delivery services? The more devices are brought into operation the more we need to care about security.

A lethal position of the management would be: "It could not happen to our systems - they are all safe. Really?

In the first years of open systems interconnection (OSI) ... early 1980s, I was quite unhappy with the Ethernet CSMA/CD method and the token bus solution. As a young engineer at Siemens here in Karlsruhe, I spent many hours and days of my free time (at home) to figure out how to improve the CSMA/CD to make the access deterministic - yes I found a solution! My colleagues and the management was supporting Tokenbus only ;-)

So, my patent was not used by Siemens ... but later I figured out that the CAN bus used the same algorithm I developed for my patent.

At that time almost nobody was expecting that years later people would intentionally hack media access protocols!! I remember one person complaining about OSI in the early 80s. He said (in German): "Wer offene Systeme haben will, der ist nicht ganz dicht!" This is not easily to be translated in English - I will try. "Offene Systeme" is "Open Systems". "Dicht" means "close" - and if someone is "nicht dicht" means: you are crazy. So: "If you want to have Open Systems - you must be crazy."

Click HERE to have a look at my patent (EP0110015).

I am really wondering that the old and for long time used protocols like CAN make that lethal trouble 30 years later! What will be next?

By the way, any Ethernet multicast shower in a subnetwork has the potential to crash a "smart" device. If the Ethernet controller has to filter out too many multicast messages it may stop to work.

Resume: Any system needs to be carefully designed, engineered and configured. Do you want to have a problem? No Problem!

The industry has to learn that a lot of changes in the way we automate today has to come!! That requires SMART People - and a lot more resources ... the costs of our living will definitely increase.

I question, if we have really made a lot of progress since the early 80s. Open Sytsems are too "open" ... we have to find ways to close the points where hacker could tap and "re-use" the messages in order to stop talking.

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