Energy

Security Expert: Solar Panels Are Extremely Easy To Hack

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A conference of cybersecurity experts is meeting in Las Vegas this Friday to discuss how rooftop solar panels make homes much easier to hack.

The experts found that a malicious hacker can easily knock solar panels offline, cause them to intentionally overheat or shut down entirely. Some hacking can even use solar panels to cause physical damage in the real world.

“I could have installed spying software that would have had visibility into their home networks, seeing their emails and everything they did online,” Frederic Bret-Mounet, a cybersecurity expert who will speak at the Friday conference, told The USA Today. ”[T]hese lightly-protected systems could then be all too easily infiltrated, possibly with catastrophic effects on the state’s power grid.”

Mounet successfully hacked his own solar panels by having his computer guess passwords to take control of the system. The actual username and password combination used on solar panels were “admin” and “support.” He says that the lack of basic security in solar panels could allow a single hacker to both spy on and shutdown the power supply of many homes with rooftop panels.

Green energy systems and solar panels make the entire power grid increasingly vulnerable to hackers, according to a study published in June by The Manhattan Institute.

The study found that making the power grid networked enough to handle the intermittent and unreliable nature of solar and wind power inherently makes it more vulnerable to cyberattacks. These attacks have risen 60 percent annually for the last six years, and utilities are increasingly targeted by both malicious hackers and other countries.

The study also concluded that the amount of money the government invested in securing the power grid is trivial compared to the enormous amounts of funding intended to promote and subsidize green energy. Even highly secure electrical infrastructure, like that of the Department of Defense, is incredibly vulnerable to cyberattack, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office. Worst case scenario cyberattacks could cost America $250 billion to $1 trillion, according to a 2015 study by Lloyds Bank.

The danger of massive attacks on the power grid organized by a hostile country isn’t theoretical either. Ukraine’s power grid was subject to a serious cyber attack linked to Russia last December. The incident successfully knocked the power grid offline, leaving approximately 700,000 homes without power for several hours and damaged physical infrastructure.

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