Hackers highlight power grid risks due to air conditioning systems

Cyber-security experts have highlighted a power grid weakness connected to air conditioning systems

Tech experts at Kaspersky have discovered a simple way of hacking air conditioning systems which they claim could cause massive blackouts across the globe.

Vasilios Hioureas, a Kaspersky Lab tech analyst, says that by hacking into the remote-controlled smart devices which utility firms request homeowners and businesses to install on their air conditioning systems, in order to conserve energy, hackers could cause enough damage to shut down the power grid.

Mr Hioureas conducted the investigation with Thomas Kinsey, of Exigent Systems, as part of a initiative named Securing Smart Cities, which aims to improve the cyber-safety across cities worldwide, and the two presented their research at the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit.

Air conditioning systems could be hacked

Weakness in air conditioning systems could cause blackout if manipulated

The two cyber-security experts claim that the air conditioning remote shut-off devices, which allow utility firms to control the air conditioning systems in homes and businesses, could be hacked by outsiders, as the devices are not encrypted and do not require authentication. Hioureas said that the devises are “ridiculously insecure” and that a hacker would not “have to even know anything”.

Kinsey said: “Anyone with $50 can generate a signal that can trump a repeater [to take out a few air conditioners]; and anyone with $150 can generate that through an [amplifier]and presumably take out a whole neighborhood … And obviously you can scale that up as much as you want to.”

Any hacker who has the basic technology to “generate a signal” stronger than the utility firms’ signal could then take control of and manipulate numerous air conditioning systems and, by turning them repeatedly on or off, the hacker could potentially cause catastrophic blackouts.

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