Solar energy is becoming more and more popular with each passing year – and for a good couple of reasons. It is, for all intents and purposes, inexhaustible and, in addition to that, it also serves as one of the most environmentally-friendly sources of energy that we use en masse. However, as of recent, a newly conducted research by the software security specialist Willem Westerhof has revealed a significant number of security flaws in the systems of solar energy products by the leading company SMA. The exposed security weaknesses are said to pose a significant threat on a global scale in terms of energy supply – in issue that can greatly escalate should somebody attempt to exploit the vulnerabilities. The name of the conducted research is the Horus Scenario – more detailed information can be learned from the official website of Horus Scenario.
Global Energy Outage
The problem wouldn’t have been that significant if the potential for harm was for isolated households only. However, solar power plants are normally connected to each other. In fact, whole countries have interconnected power grids for the purpose of more balanced distribution of electric energy. For instance, if a solar eclipse is about to happen, the governments would be able to predict it and ramp up the electricity production from other power plants (nuclear, coal, hydro, etc.) so as to quickly and effectively compensate for the temporary lack of sunlight. However, this is precisely what makes the potential threat of a security breach into a single solar plant so disturbing and immense. Countries like Germany, for example, generate between thirty and fifty percent of their electric energy via solar panels. Should any of the solar energy plants get hacked, the whole power grid could get affected due to the interconnection that we mentioned. The power disbalance and outage can easily spread between cities and even countries and the aftermath of such an event could be devastating on a global scale. The effect would be similar to a solar eclipse, yet the main difference would be that such an attack could hardly be predicted and compensating the energy generation decrease would be pretty much impossible, making any attempts to handle such an issue after it has occurred highly ineffective.
Power storage issues
A theoretical resolution to such a problem would be to store extra energy in case the Horus Scenario actually takes place as predicted. However, this would be a highly ineffective way of dealing with the problem mainly because storing energy is difficult and inefficient. Stored energy fades over time (think of batteries, for example) – this would basically make such a prevention method rather costly since a lot of energy would get wasted to no avail. In addition, even if there are reserves saved for any potential unforeseen consequences, it is not really known if it would be possible to instantly put them into use in the event of a power outage caused by a hacker attack.
Clearly, the one truly effective and sensible way to overcome this sort of predicament would be to fix the said security flaws. Out of twenty-one, fourteen of them are said to be CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) meaning that those can be exploited by hackers and used to take over the system of the solar power plants.
However, although Westerhof had contacted SMA eight months ago, providing information from his research, the mentioned security flaws are yet to be fixed leaving the dreadful possibility of someone hacking into any of the power plants and thus wreaking havoc throughout whole countries by triggering disbalance of the energy levels and global power outage.