Most Ohio Utilities have Installed Smart Meters. Do You Know About Their Cybersecurity Risks?

by Vince Welage, SWORT board member

Cyber Security Vital to Smart Metering Deployment

As the adoption of “Smart Meters” and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) has become more widespread, its appeal to cyber attackers has increased significantly.

This means that utility companies must address security vulnerabilities across multiple layers from the start. For the most part, utilities often rely on service providers and vendors to comply with cyber security regulatory requirements.

For this reason, many security compliance efforts have neglected the newly built “smart” infrastructures in power grids which suggest that electric utilities should expect them to have weaknesses.

In regard to cyber security – Duke Energy – has already been the target of cyber attacks and had to pay fines because of cyber security violations. Duke reported 650 million attempted cyber attacks in 2017. Another Ohio utility, First Energy, has confirmed the need for frequent replacement due to the meters being computers.

Because AMI allows for 2-way communication and remote management of in-field devices, security breaches could allow unwanted changes to be made to device configuration and settings. IBM has reported that millions of Smart Meters are already vulnerable and could be wrecked by hackers. If Smart Meters move to 5G networks, there is a more significant cyber security risk because the 5G technology is software based. This means the meter is subject to hackers using backdoor or calling home mechanisms that can go undetected when installed during regular software upgrades.

An electric Smart Meter is much the same as other Internet of Things (IoT) based products like a Smart TV or Smart refrigerator wrapped in privacy and security concerns. Federal IoT Guidelines that establish minimum security standards for IoT devices procured by the federal government is moving closer to becoming law. However, the Smart Meter can’t be disconnected and discarded unless the homeowner wants to lose total electric power to the home. Residential Smart Meter installations result in both unwanted and forced surveillance. Currently, utility Smart Meters aren’t safe. They don’t have surge protectors and are prone to fires and explosions. Advanced meters must be properly grounded and have surge protection that is adequately rated in order to divert a lightning strike or some kind of short-circuit incident.

All of these new power grid infrastructures are essentially large, distributed networks of computers that can be hijacked for financial gains. This means that criminal organizations have an ongoing mission to steal utility assets and sell them back to the utility. These bad actors go after what a utility relies on the most to operate: data and grid infrastructure.

Malware can be developed to target Smart Meters, launch it, and take control of tens of thousands if not millions of Smart Meters. The attackers then change the targeted utility security keys, pushing the utility out of their own infrastructure. Utilities are accepting of these types of security risks via remote software update because they expect the newly built computerized infrastructures will gain new capabilities, thus increasing the return on investment.

Smart Meters are often not just used for billing consumers for energy and water they use. Electric utilities use Smart Meters to remotely switch power off or use Smart Meter data in a series of business processes that base their decisions on information received from the Smart Meters in the field – such as signal and power quality levels used for fault detection and load balancing. By manipulating this data, attackers can directly change the view of a grid to their advantage.

In addition, Smart Meters are increasingly being used as grid sensors in Smart Sewers through real-time monitoring and control of overflow conditions inside the sewer system. This is an extremely insightful data point from a Smart Grid perspective.

Like other Smart infrastructure, there have been problems with Smart Sewers. For example, in South Bend IN, Smart Sewers have been overwhelmed which has led to sewage being directed into the river.

The Need for Early Detection and Response Planning

Despite the risks, Smart Meters are installed into the grid in an effort to keep companies competitive in the race to the Smart Grid. The switch-over to Smart Meters is in part due to federal mandates that promote Smart Grid projects which established a national policy for grid modernization. Efforts to secure these new technologies have largely focused on trying to prevent attacks from being successful. Therefore, utilities must invest in early detection and incident response, especially for their newer technologies that may not be procured, developed, or operated with a bad actor in mind. Attacks can be significantly hampered by early detection and pre-planned disaster response playbooks.

However, as of right now, solutions aren’t being applied quickly enough to the latest grid technologies. In May, President Trump issued an Executive Order to make the Smart Grid more secure. He ordered beefed-up efforts to secure the U.S. grid saying, “The unrestricted foreign supply of bulk-power system electric equipment constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”  However, new stories of cyber attacks hit the headlines almost every day which portends that not every attack can be blocked.

For more details on problems that persist with other Smart Meter components, read my August article in the OSHN archive.

Editor Notes: What to do if you have a smart meter and you don’t want it.

Make a Call (or better yet, write a letter via certified mail) to your utility and tell them you demand an analog meter.

If you have been made ill by your “smart’ meter,” tell them about it in detail. Tell them you know of the people who have gotten analogs. Tell them you are going to the press if they don’t do the same thing for you they have done for others.

Do not accept a digital non-transmitting meter— be aware they also have problems, and are not stable and secure like analog meters.

Do not take “No” for an answer.

Is it crazy to start a business in 2020? This Ohio couple did!

The COVID economy put thousands of small businesses under this year. But a Loveland couple, Eric and Tara Calderaro, didn’t let the COVID crisis stop them.

And the timing couldn’t have been better.

In late 2019, Eric left the corporate 9-5. He and Tara, a freelance graphic designer for 25 years, began pursuing a new business idea – to create their own brand of snarky, sassy, funny, inspirational, motivational and patriotic apparel, drinkware, home accents and accessories.

Tara  and Eric Calderaro, owners of The Wise Jester

The Wise Jester was set to launch in March. At the same time, COVID made its debut.

“COVID lockdowns in Ohio and across the country, stopped all that because it shut down our suppliers and printers, some of which are located in Ohio,” said Eric. “So, we were forced to delay our launch.”

But it all worked out for the best for the two entrepeneaurs.

During the downtime, like many Ohioans, Eric and Tara began to notice that some things about COVID-19 just didn’t add up.

“We were witnessing how the COVID cure was, in fact, worse than the disease for 99% of people, including for our family and our 2 children with autism,” said Tara.

As it turned out, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s overreaction to the new coronavirus was the basis for some of their most popular products. It served as inspiration for a host of COVID-related creations that the couple added to the store.

Coronavirus-related products

“The more we witnessed the needless suffering caused by DeWine’s arbitrary and unconstitutional mandates, the more compelled we felt to fight back and enable fellow Ohioans to stand up and speak up in a personal way by creating snarky designs focused on DeWine,” said Eric.

Shop All Ohio/Political

In addition, The Wise Jester has an entire shop dedicated to the Ohio Stands Up! movement. Ohio Stands Up! filed the first federal lawsuit challenging DeWine’s entire Emergency Order. Eric and Tara are among multiple plaintiffs and are on the Board of Directors for Ohio Stands Up!

The lawsuit will set a national precedent.

“When you purchase any of our Ohio Stands Up! products, you are directly supporting this grassroots organization, made up of courageous and concerned freedom-loving Ohioans,” said Tara.

“One hundred percent of the profits go directly to the organization to continue funding the legal action as well as educating the public.”

One of the numerous items in Ohio Stands Up! shop is this drawstring bag.

The couple continues to fight to return the state and their family to the “Old Normal” and restore Constitutional rights.

“We want to empower Ohioans and all Americans during this unprecedented time, to boldly express their patriotism, their beliefs in our God-given Constitutional rights and their love for freedom by designing products with those themes, while simultaneously incorporating our innate humor and sarcasm in many designs,” said Eric.

“As we tell our customers, we can’t solve your problems, but we can help you laugh about them while empowering you to live your life authentically.”

Middle schoolers punished for lowering masks to catch breath or take a drink

Detention, Saturday school and suspension possible, school advised parent.

The “New Normal” has been especially cruel to Ohio’s children.

Students are required to wear face coverings throughout the day to attend public school, due to mandatory mask orders from Gov. Mike DeWine.

This means children are in face masks for up to eight hours a day, five days a week. In addition, children are kept apart from peers and are unable to socialize at school, missing out on fundamental social development.

Each district issues its own consequences for those who don’t wear face coverings properly.

Ironically, one school has junior high students writing the preamble to the Declaration of Independence as punishment for mask violations.

Tri-County North Local School District near Dayton also threatens middle school students with Saturday school and suspension. This, after students lowered their masks to take a drink or catch their breath.

“Our children were not defiant, nor were they reminded to pull them up the day they were given the punishment,” said one of the parents on social media.

The post was made on the Ohio Advocates for Medical Freedom Facebook page.

“They are good respectful kids, students, athletes that needed a breath.” Or, in one child’s case, a drink of water.

A junior high boy with allergies and breathing difficulties was ordered to write the Declaration of Independence for pulling his mask beneath his nose for some air, said the boy’s mother.

“Our son has missed three days of school for allergies because he couldn’t breathe with his face covered,” said the child’s mother.

She explained to school administrators that her son has allergies but they refused to relent.

“The Principal just told me the process will be: Because my son is not going to complete the assignment, he will be served a detention by the teacher.

“When he doesn’t serve the detention the principal will issue a Saturday school. When he does not attend that, he will be given a one day out of school suspension, of which we can appeal, and will do so.”

The parent said she also contacted the Preble County Department of Health and is scheduled to speak at an upcoming school board meeting.

Two other middle schoolers also violated the mask policy.

“Our daughter received the same punishment and she’s nothing like me, because I wouldn’t have done it. I told her I would fight for her but she was in fear of losing her 7th grade trip,” said her mother.

“I feel as if she was bullied.

“I personally wanted her to write the second amendment so they knew where I stood. She has bad allergies and stayed home the next day due to this teacher.”

A third student, who had his writing hand in a cast,  was served the same punishment. The teacher told him to write it with his other hand, said the parent.

At another school,  West Liberty-Salem Local School District, students with approved mask exemptions are shamed and isolated throughout the school day.

West Liberty-Salem Superintendent Kraig Hissong confirmed that mask-exempt students are isolated behind plexiglass at their desks and are kept apart from other students as much as possible throughout the school day.

A civil law suit that seeks to overturn Ohio’s mask mandate in K-12 public schools has been transferred out of Putnam County Common Pleas Court to Franklin County at the request of interim Ohio Department of Health Director Lance Himes, defendant in the case.

The case was brought by more than 20 Ohioans.

Football mom tasered and arrested after no mask at son’s jr. high game

A Marrietta football mom was tasered and arrested when she resisted removal from a junior high game at a Logan football stadium for not wearing a facemask.

Marietta City Schools parent Alicia Kitts was detained following noncompliance with state mask mandates during the game, MCS Athletic Director Cody Venderlic reportedly told the Marietta Times.

Kitts was one in a group of five spectators, including her mother and two children, at the outdoor stadium. They appear to have been socially distanced from other spectators.

Logan Police Department officer Chris Smith attempted to handcuff Kitts when she apparently refused to comply with the masking order. Smith’s Facebook page said he is a resource officer at Logan Middle School.

A YouTube video taken by Tiffany Lynn shows Kitts being tasered by Smith before being led away in handcuffs.

A second officer arrived to assist in removing Kitts from the stadium.

The second officer was not wearing a mask. Kitts could be heard in the video to say, “You don’t even have your mask on, and I’m getting arrested?”

Doug Mallett, a Marietta City Schools board member, appeared in videos of the arrest that were posted to social media.

Mallett can be seen rising when Kitts appears to have been tased by Officer Smith.

Mallett reportedly told Marietta Times, “It escalated pretty fast into an ugly situation, he tased her pretty fast.

“I didn’t see where she was putting anybody at risk, I guess that’s a Logan rule. It depends on interpretation, it’s a state rule, but I thought there was some wiggle room if you have health issues. I tried to stay out of it until he got the taser out.”

A social media comment said Kitts was unable to wear a mask due to asthma.

Rep. John Becker who recently initiated articles of impeachment agains Gov. Mike DeWine responded to news of the tasering.

“Wow! So, this is where we are now? Hello! Governor DeWine! This is the Ohio that you’ve created,” said Becker on his Facebook page.

MCS football parent Tim Ryan posted a second video of the arrest on Facebook.

Skyler Steward recorded and posted an interaction he had with the Logan Police Department after the arrest.

“This was my son’s mother arrested,” Steward said. “Big bad cop tasered a 100 pound woman with one hand in cuffs.”

Kitts was reportedly charged with criminal trespassing.

Logan Police Department reported that the incident is under investigation.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Students Segregated and Isolated from Peers at School

There was a time when the isolation and shaming of children by teachers and authority figures was frowned upon.

But what was once considered cruel and abusive is now the norm in at least one Ohio school.

Children who cannot comply with the school district’s mandatory mask policy due to an exemption are segregated from other students throughout the school day.

Ohio Statehouse News learned of the situation via a social media post and contacted the school district to confirm.

West Liberty-Salem Local School District requires all students in third grade and up to wear face coverings in order to attend in-person classes, as do other Ohio schools due to Governor DeWine’s mandatory student mask order.

Students in K-second grade are “strongly encouraged” to wear face coverings, according to the district’s website.

Superintendent Kraig Hissong confirmed that mask-exempt students are isolated behind plexiglass at their desks to prevent the potential spread of COVID and are kept apart from other students as much as possible throughout the school day.

“These are precautions that have to be taken,” said Hissong . “This is the best we can do with what we have.”

When it is necessary to leave the classroom as a group, these children are placed at the front of the line and kept apart from classmates as much as reasonably possible, he said.

“This is the best chance that they will not come in contact with others,” said Hissong.

The Superintendent said there is an online option for students that cannot wear a mask. Those who choose to attend in-person school must be “accommodated” for their safety and the safety and the safety of others.

Acquiring a medical exemption in the West Liberty-Salem Local School District requires an order from the child’s physician and must go through the county health department, said Hissong.

The exemption is subject to approval from the school administration, according to the its website.

“There are things I have to do as a superintendent,” said Hissong. “There are state directives that we need to follow. We need to make school as safe as we can.”

Hissong said there are up to six students in the district that have obtained or are in the process of obtaining a medical mask exemption.

There are 1156 students in the district, according to the website. Hissong said about 160 of them are doing online school.

“If your child refuses to wear a face covering at school, when it is required, and does not comply to school personnel when reminded to put his/her mask on, than there may be disciplinary consequences,” according to the website.

The district offers guidance on what type of mask students should wear during in-person school

More than two dozen parents have sued Ohio’s health director over the state’s mask mandate for children in schools. The case is onlging.

HB 606 was signed into law on Monday, September 16, 2020, that  temporarily shields individuals, businesses, schools, health care providers and other entities from tort liability in incidents of COVID-19 exposure or transmission through Sept. 30, 2021.

A school dashboard was recently set up on the Ohio Department of Health coronavirus page that tracks cases by district.

Former CPD Speaks Out in Support of Columbus Police Officers

 Letter to the Editor from former CPD James J. Scanlon 

“Vote NO on Columbus Charter Amendment Civilian Police Review Board”

After spending over $500,000 of Columbus City tax dollars on a no bid contract with the BakerHostetler Law Firm, Mayor Ginther and City Council members were “surprised and angered” that the vast majority of Columbus Police Officers were cleared of any wrongdoing during the recent downtown riots. Unfortunately, Ginther and Council members did not voice the same “surprise and anger” about the 200 injuries inflicted on their police officers during those same riots.

Since Mayor Ginther and all Columbus City Council Members didn’t get the desired bang for their buck, (well – your buck), in maliciously persecuting Columbus Police Officers, they have devised another plan to accomplish that goal.

They propose Columbus Charter Amendment (3501.11G) to establish a suspiciously vague Citizen Review Board that lacks any transparency. This proposed kangaroo court has no clear direction, no clearly defined goals, and no clear selection process for board members.

However, Ginther’s charade of a citizen’s review board will clearly be filled with individuals who have a disturbingly anti-police bias and will be focused on falsely accusing and prosecuting the fine men and women of the Columbus Division of Police.

Support your Columbus Division of Police. Support a return to law and order in Columbus.

Vote NO on Columbus Charter Amendment (3501.11G) Citizen Review Board.

James J. Scanlon
614-419-4890 Cell
nasta@nasta.ws

Link to Ballotpedia: Columbus Issue 2, Civilian Police Review Board and Inspector General Charter Amendment

 

COVID-positive test results entered into statewide police database

If you test positive for COVID-19, your result doesn’t simply stay with the health department. Positive results are sent to the Ohio Department of Public Safety and entered into LEADS, the Law Enforcement Automated Data System.

LEADS is used to alert officers of arrest warrants, protection orders, stolen vehicles, CCW permits – and COVID-19.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s Press Secretary Dan Tierney said HIPAA laws don’t apply to COVID testing.

HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a US law designed to provide privacy standards to protect patients’ medical records provided to health plans, doctors, and other health care providers, does not apply to COVID-19 in this situation, according to the press secretary.

“This is valuable information for first responders,” said Tierney. “The purpose is to protect first responders from a highly infectious, airborne disease.”

A “hit” is received alerting of your COVID-positive status when your name, address, drivers license or plates are entered, notifying law and emergency personnel to use personal protective equipment.

This system has been in place since May 21, according to Kristen Castle , ODPS director of communications. Castle said the information stays in the system for 30 days.

An order signed by former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton on April 14 called for preventing the exposure to first responders.

Although the order was apparently intended for protection of law and emergency personnel, it’s possible you could be charged if your local health department ordered you to quarantine and you are found in public, according to Tierney.

Ohio Statehouse News was contacted anonymously by a Central Ohio dispatcher who made us aware of the statewide COVID alert that many Ohioans were not aware was in use.

A “COP” (Caution Ohio Police) is entered into LEADS for positive cases, explained the dispatcher.

“We as dispatchers are advised to look at the date of the test in the COP Alert, if that has been within the last 14 days, to advise the officer of a ‘possible infectious condition’ or PIC,” the dispatcher said.

“However many municipalities have attached criminal penalties to violation of mask ordinances and not adhering to DeWine health orders do carry criminal penalties under the Ohio Revised Code. So it would or could be up to the officer.

“I will say that any department that I work with has gone above and beyond to communicate with their officers that they emphasize education over enforcement and it is not hard to read between the lines to see that enforcement is really the absolute last, last resort.”

The dispatcher said many local law enforcement agencies are not doing anything with mask or social distancing complaints either, they are clearing the calls as information only and not responding.

High Speed Internet Access Should be Made Safe for Ohio Students and Communities

by Monique Maisenhalter, SW Ohio for Responsible Technology

According to the September 1, 2020 Ohio governor press conference, $50M in grants has been made available for providing remote learning supplies to K-12 students.

These supplies include internet-abled lap tops, tablets, and Wi-Fi hotspots for homes which will allow 121,000 students to do remote learning.

The grant also supports the creation of new public and mobile Wi-Fi spaces to provide internet access to 645,000 students.

During the press conference, there was also discussion of streamlining broadband laws.

Ohio broadband laws like Ohio House Bill 478 “Small Cells Expansion Act” severely limit municipal control over wireless infrastructure installation. These laws put Ohioans’ health and safety at risk.

4G and 5G small cell towers have been installed next to Ohio homes, schools, medical facilities, and businesses. They are continuing to be installed without taking health, safety, and liability into consideration. Ohioans should be given a say in this.

If there is no “cell service gap” in your neighborhood, then telecom companies shouldn’t be allowed to install towers, antennas, and other wireless infrastructure.

According to lawyer, Andrew Campenelli,
unfortunately, what the vast majority of the country doesn’t know is that with respect to the 5G rollout, virtually all of the wireless facilities are essentially unregulated.

What I mean by that is that when they are built, the FCC has no idea where they are and has no idea of what level of RF radiation they are emitting.
That’s because any facility under 199 feet doesn’t have to be registered with the FCC.

And with regard to RF radiation they are exposing people to, the FCC – unless it receives a complaint – they never test the facilities and never require the owners to test them.”

Also according to Campenelli, Ohio legislators and municipal governments are not powerless to regulate and deny small cell installations.

In 2011, Dr. Keith Black, an American neurosurgeon stated “Children’s skulls and scalps are thinner so the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brains of children and young adults.”

Health issues caused by Blue Light from screens are also well documented.

Ohio students deserve safe remote learning tools. School districts should provide families with the necessary tools to set up wired Ethernet connections in their homes and instructions to turn off the Wi-Fi signal on school-supplied devices. This would eliminate the need for Public Wi-Fi and Mobile Wi-Fi spaces which create health, safety, and liability risks as well as reduce property value.

School districts should also supply Blue Light reducing glasses or protective screens for students to use with their devices.

For more information about unsafe technology being installed in Ohio, join SWORT on Facebook (SW Ohio for Responsible Technology) or email swo4responsibletech@fuse.net Click here to review and sign our petition, “Stop 5G Deployment in Ohio Until Independent Studies Prove It’s Safe.”

Additional links:
The American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations on Cell Phones, Cell Towers and Wireless Radiation

Parent-Teacher Organizations Action on Wi-Fi, Cell Phones and Cell Towers at School

Schools Worldwide Removing the Wi-Fi and Reducing Exposure`

COVID-positive cases flagged by Butler County Sheriff’s dispatch

The Butler County Sheriff’s Department alerts officers when they may be coming in contact with someone that has tested positive for COVID-19.

The name and address of individuals who have tested positive are reportedly provided to the sheriff’s department by health officials.

That information is entered into a system utilized by law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical technicians throughout the county,  according to Miranda Sheppard, BCSD dispatch manager.

The sheriff’s office reportedly dispatches for 15 fire and 12 EMS departments and eight police agencies, including Hamilton and Oxford.

Sheppard said the information is for the protection of law, fire and emergency personnel.

“If we load an address for a call and see that there’s a flag, it alerts us to utilize proper PPE,” said Sheppard.

The system also will flag the name of anyone who has tested positive when entered, said Sheppard.

Sheppard explained that Miami University has its own police department and the BCSD does not handle its dispatch.

The program has been in place for a few months. Thus far, there have been no complaints about privacy issues that she is aware of.

Sheppard said protocols vary by police departments within the county, but that BCSD does not enforce quarantine or isolation orders.

Butler County Sheriff Richard “Jonesy” Jones made news in early July when he said he would not help enforce Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s orders for mandatory mask wearing in the county.

“We are not the mask police,” said Jones.

Sheppard said the flagged names and addresses in the system automatically expire after 21 days and disappear.

A video surfaced on Twitter that showed an officer talking with an individual whose address had been flagged. However, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles is not involved in the alert system, said Sheppard.

CDC advises parents to prepare for “sudden sleepover” for school children

The Center for Disease Control recently updated their website advising parents to prepare for a “sudden sleepover” for their children in the case of a disaster, which could include COVID-19.

Coincidentally or not, a few days later on Aug. 31, a new order was issued by Ohio Department of Health Interim Director Lance Himes creating FEMA COVID-19 shelters and legalizing their use.

The FEMA shelters are to be used to “isolate those diagnosed with or showing symptoms of COVID-19.”

See Story in The Ohio Star.

The CDC advised parents to prepare for children to be detained overnight in case of a disaster, listing COVID-19 as a “biological threat” that would qualify as a disaster.

Governor Mike DeWine requires schools to report K-12 student COVID cases to the government. This must be done within 24 hours of a positive test.

A three-step preparedness card published by the CDC says it’s as Easy as ABC to prepare.

See complete CDC  infographic.

“Tell school administrators about any extra supplies your child may need to safely make it through a night away from home,” the CDC advised. “Bring extra medicines, special foods, or supplies your child would need if separated overnight.

“Complete a backpack card and tuck one in your child’s backpack and your wallet.”

The ODH order calls for college students living in dorms or other situations deemed unacceptable by health officials to be sent to FEMA shelters for isolation.

See story in Ohio Statehouse News.

Any Ohioan living in a household that health officials deem unacceptable (generally a shared bathroom) could legally be ordered to a FEMA shelter.