Security and the Smart Grid

Thursday, December 2, 2010 @ 08:12 AM gHale


Louis Parks is one of those folks that thinks security first.
That is why his company, SecureRF, was one of 12 winners in General Electric’s $200 million Ecomagination Challenge and plans to tap its partnership with the global conglomerate to embed its products in devices throughout the home end of the smart grid.
“We believe in security before you have huge AMI (Advanced metering infrastructure) rollouts to the home level,” Parks said. SecureRF will provide the technology knowledge and GE will work toward using it in smart appliances and other smart grid hardware, the chief executive said.
“We have the security technology, (and) the tool kits,” he said.
GE and its VC partners are investing $55 million in power grid technology firms like SecureRF to find and fund winning ideas for grid modernization.
SecureRF’s “high-performance” asymmetric (public key) and symmetric (private key) cryptography delivers authentication and data protection for wireless sensor networks, the smart grid, RFID, M2M applications and other embedded systems, officials said. With public-key cryptography, each user has a specific private key, which only the user knows, and a mathematically related public key that can be public and freely distributed.
The 10-employee, five-year-old firm bills itself as the developer of the “world’s first linear-based security methods.” SecureRF has worked for the U.S. military on security projects, but it sees a great market for its Algebraic Eraser in the smart grid. Its public-key cryptography method is for resource-constrained devices like meters and sensors.
SecureRF focuses on the new math it pioneered to fit security technology in small devices, Parks said.
“We are talking about using the technology for devices in the home,” and the technology can not only help protect privacy but also help keep homes secure, he added.
“Say you are in Miami and it’s 100 degrees out, but your air conditioning is not running. Someone could tell through your wireless protocol that, since the air conditioner is not running, you are likely not home,” Parks said.
The person with such information might go into an unsecured wireless smart grid device and cause mischief or major damage, he suggested. “Someone could adjust things in the home, going in and turning on an oven for instance when nobody is home.”



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