The answer to the question in the headline, it turns out, is many. So many, in fact, that the consensus is to just give up. Your system is vulnerable. Someone, somewhere, can get into your system as you're reading this, turn on your printer, turn on your camera, snap a picture of you, draw a funny picture on it, and then send it through your printer as you look on in confusion. This has, yes, actually happened to me.
There are so many vulnerabilities along the grid that trying to fix all the little holes could drive software engineers crazy. So, to keep us all sane, let's focus on minimizing the damage instead of eliminating it altogether.
There are three points of entry for the smart grid:
- The consumer segment: This segment includes devices like your phone or tablet or computer.
- The concentrator segment: This segment includes your router or a wireless gateway. This segment manages maybe a dozen or so consumer devices.
- The backend: This segment includes a few servers that manage thousands of concentrators. When the backend goes down, whole regions can go dark.
Of course, while the most important point along the grid is the backend, the most vulnerable point is the consumer segment. It's the most vulnerable because security hinders a user's ability to enjoy his product, so we as consumers often ignore security. But really, if a hacker gets access to your phone, you're the only one affected. So instead of spending millions of dollars and hours trying to save us from ourselves, doesn't it make more sense to focus on the backend, where, if a hacker gets access, thousands of systems could be affected?
Freescale Semiconductor Inc. agrees, and its QoriQ T4240 with Layerscape addresses these issues with Trust 1.1 and 2.0. Freescale defines a secure product as something that satisfies four requirements:
- It has an irreversible configuration, which means that it has a secure boot and is tamper-resistant because the code has been hardwired into the silicon.
- It is uniquely identifiable with strong authorization requirements.
- There are runtime integrity checks.
- It has secure communication channels.
As a result, the right code will only work with the right security key. No security key means the product is effectively bricked. And with Freescale, if its product senses tampering, then the flash that stores all the authorization codes will be wiped so the codes cannot be stolen.
Considering that anywhere from 50 percent to 73 percent of passwords are used over and over again, credential stealing can become a serious problem. Freescale's solution eliminates the possibility of credential stealing by assuming the possibility of a security breach and minimizing the damage from the start.
Keep in mind that these security measures aren't for your phone or computer, but for enterprise-level servers that handle thousands of smaller systems, ensuring that the backend stays up so we can keep using our phones.
Security should be happening on the backend, and the people at the Freescale Technology Forum agreed. It was quite refreshing to sit in on a discussion that was willing to address the fact that you cannot secure the grid from the consumer segment, even if it is the most vulnerable.