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The Future of Power Scams

October 12, 2010

I’ve actually seen some good scams around people stealing power in my life.  As an old power conversion engineer, I’ve always known that there are opportunities out there.  Here’s one of the latest examples from the Register:

DC Kerry Burgess of Haringey CID said: “In many cases we believe that Brown was carrying out work for houses being converted into flats and splitting the connection from the mains in order to allow each property to have a separate supply.

“The landlords claimed that they weren’t aware because the work had been arranged by contractors, who now have the inconvenience of having to arrange for the illegal services to be removed and new services to be properly and safely installed.” 

 I remember one from a while back where a farmer laid a looped cable under transmission lines going across his field, and used the electricity to power his house.  Yes, this is not legal… no matter how genius it is.  Like I said, as long as there’s power that’s easily accessible, people will try to find ways to get it for free.  It’s the original version of stealing cable.

My mind, though, wanders to the future smart grid.  The system is supposed to more easily direct power in the grid, and it will also take feedback from individual homes to better service the neighborhoods.  It’s also a network… which can be hacked… and it means money.  How much money? Well, Google is dropping $5B on an extension to the grid in the Atlantic to pull in future wind power.  And that’s just infrastructure.  The power on that grid will be significantly more than that in worth.

All these investments, and all the intelligence… it just cries for a need for massive security.  Imagine being able to hack into the system and shut down a major link in the system.  That’ll be guarded to a huge degree.  But what about individual grid manipulation to feed a house?  That would seem innocent (though still illegal) enough that a few hackers might try to work into the system to do it.  If they do it well enough, then that opens the door for greater access.

This is just the friendly reminder that technology is powerful, and anything with that much power is a weapon as well as a tool.

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