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Smart meters could increase risk of wireless attack

by Brian Sims

Critical infrastructure control systems could be at risk from wireless attacks carried out over Software Defined Radio (SDR), according to Digital Assurance. Control systems such as SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition), Building Management Systems (BMS) and PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) all use a proprietary wireless technology which could potentially be hacked using SDR equipment and a PC. The specialist data communicated by these systems could be intercepted, captured and replayed to suspend service and cause widespread disruption. These systems will be at greater risk in the future as smart meters are brought online, increasing the attack surface of the network. The lowering price point, advances in processing power and difficulties in detecting SDR attacks are also likely to see incidents increase. SCADA industrial control systems are used to monitor and regulate utility services across multiple sites, and have been afforded some protection by the relative obscurity of the network in the past. However, with up to 53 million smart meters across homes and businesses being added between 2014-2019, the number of potential access points on to the network is set to increase dramatically. The data relayed between these end devices can be intercepted, captured, jammed or replayed using SDR equipment, providing the hacker with network-wide access to field devices, control stations, generating stations and transmission facilities. The lowering price point and ease of use of SDR equipment make it the ideal tool with which to capture, intercept and manipulate widely used wireless standards. It has overcome many of the obstacles associated with wireless hacking, such as frequency hopping or advanced modulation techniques, and eradicates the need for expensive equipment or an in-depth knowledge of wireless standards on the part of the hacker.

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