We know all know our emails and other personal computer related information can get hacked but what about solar panels?

Recently the computer security industry’s took their annual trip to Las Vegas this week for a trio of conferences in order to find out the ways criminals can breach our increasingly connected world.

This years talks brought out a few interesting, yet scarily possible, ways that drones can be used. Some of which included drones being perched high up on buildings and linking into unsecured networks, and using a drone to hack a roof-top solar array and destabilize an entire power grid.

These are the hacking scenarios that have got the cybersleuths talking.

Solar

Installing solar panels can open homeowners up to hackers, according to a presentation by security researcher Frederic Bret-Mounet.

After installing solar panels on his home, Frederic noted the array was connected to the cloud. It took him a single weekend to hack into his own system.

Once there he realized he could have overridden the safety limits on the system, causing it to overheat and then be knocked offline. He also had the potential to remotely set off the solar array’s emergency shutdown protocol.

Having this access could also potentially compromise devices in thousands of homes that are also connected to the cloud. Frederic claims, “I could have installed spying software that would have had visibility into their home networks, seeing their emails and everything they did online.”

rotor-solar-777x437A drone surveys a solar panel project

 

The idea also arose that drones could fly within the vicinity of these arrays and be able to hack into the cloud system that these solar panels use. Although the popularity of solar power systems aren’t to high at the moment, California has set a goal of 50% of the state’s power coming from renewable sources by 2030. This will have the potential to open up a lot personal data being remotely accessed via drone.

In the near future, when solar arrays are ubiquitous, ”these lightly-protected systems could then be all too easily infiltrated, possibly with catastrophic effects on the state’s power grid”, he said.

Drones 

To Jeff Melrose, a strategist for cybersecurity at engineering services, drones are a terrifying threat to industrial installations, from power and chemical plants to factories.

“In the old days, a fence kept people out of your plant. Now a drone can just fly right over it,” he said.

With increasing capabilities, a drone can almost silently creep in to a restricted area, perch and watch for days. It can also find its way to a hidden area of a building and then serve as a connection to any open Bluetooth or Wi-Fi networks or even a wireless mouse or keyboard.

The thing that is intriguing about drones is that they are close to risk-free to the attacker. “You can put up an untraceable drone and if it gets caught, it gets caught. It’s basically risk free,” said David Latimer, a security analyst at Bishop Fox.

Latimer sees a tidal wave of attacks coming. “This Christmas, almost every hacker wants a drone,” said Latimer.

With the increasing capabilities of drones, the potential for personal data to be stolen and our lives being constantly monitored is drastically increasing. Not only businesses now but even within our own homes we can face this threat. Hopefully as these threats are exploited, we can find ways to continue to protect our private information and our privacy.