Monday, August 3, 2009

Dr. Magda Havas recent presentation / Smart grid hackers / Wind turbines / Are wind farms a health risk? / Visit to Montreal

"Dr. Magda Havas: The Truth About Wired & Wireless Technologies" now online

Here's a link to Dr. Havas' recent presentation at Royal Roads in Colwood (Victoria) on July 22nd.
This link will allow you to view the first five minutes of the video.  You then have the option of downloading / installing the VEOH player to your computer so that you may play the full length video.  (You will find the download link to this player below the video screen.)  Please keep in mind the compression ratio of this video is 10 to 1 so the quality has been significantly reduced compared to the downloadable MPG version (and certainly compared to the version slated for local TV broadcast.)  This version is the unedited version at one hour and twenty-eight minutes.  This will be cut down to an hour long version for the local Victoria TV market.  I realize this is a long video but you can simply move the progress indicator bar below the viewing screen to any location to locate a particular topic of interest.  Many internet viewers have not seen the previous video and may want to view the presentation in its entirety.  There's a lot of information here and I believe that all of it is substantial and important hence my decision not to cut it up into small chunks and post them on YouTube.  Again, you can download the video and watch it in digestable timeframes or you can move the progress indicator bar and manually fast-forward to a location.
This video site offers several advantages once the Veoh player is installed on your system:  One is improved data streaming.  Another is different playback sizes and finally, you can download the entire unconverted video to your computer so you can play it back from your hard drive in full screen mode.  There is also a cool search-engine (Firefox) toolbar feature that displays all videos related to any Google/Yahoo search that you perform.  However, there are negatives such as the ads and the occasional tasteless, mind-numbing commercials.  Understand that I have absolutely no control over the obnoxious, irritating and insulting ads and commercials or the content therein so please be tolerant and forgiving.  Marshall McLuhan said that the 'medium is the message' but didn't mention that the medium would contain additional superfluous toxic detritus...
Please foward this email video link on to interested parties if you are so inclined.
If you have any technical questions or problems, I will be glad to assist you if you require help.
Smart grid saves power, but can it thwart hackers? 
Aug 03, 2009 04:30 AM
The illegal access of 179,000 Toronto Hydro e-billing accounts last week may be written off by some as just another privacy breach in an increasingly interconnected world, but it also raises a red flag in the rush toward the "smart grid."
Customer information taken in this case included names, addresses, customer account numbers and some billing information, all building blocks for anyone serious about committing identity theft.
"Nobody knows if it was a rogue employee or somebody else. It's a big question mark," says Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's information and privacy commissioner, in an interview.
To its credit, Toronto Hydro was quick to act. But Cavoukian, who is investigating the breach, sees it as a wake-up call of sorts as utilities begin to modernize their networks and embrace communications technologies to better interact with customers.
She mentions Google and its plan to work with certain utilities – Toronto Hydro included – to demonstrate its new residential energy management tool, Google PowerMeter. Are the proper policies in place, for example, to make sure your personal information as a customer is protected when it's handed over to Google?
"There needs to be a wall between Toronto Hydro customer information and Google being able to take that and connect it with other information Google possesses that may be linked through your Gmail account," she says. (Disclosure: I co-authored a book on data privacy with Cavoukian in 2002)
Her concern could just as easily extend to Microsoft and its new energy management tool, Hohm. Or the dozens of similar, much more advanced applications that will use two-way broadband and wireless networks to gather customer data, including energy use, for highly detailed analysis and feedback.
"The smart grid is a good idea, and I'm certainly in favour of it. But the focus is so much on controlling energy use that I think the privacy issue is a sleeper; it's not top-of-mind," Cavoukian says.
That was the same message heard Friday at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. That's where Mike Davis, a security consultant with IOActive Inc. in Seattle, showed how someone could hack into a smart meter and install a computer worm that could spread to other smart meters used by homes and businesses connected to a local distribution hub.
The worm, apparently, could have been programmed with the ability to take over the meter and remotely disconnect someone's power. Davis was able to demonstrate this under contract with an unnamed utility, which hired him to test smart meter security. He told his audience the general attitude among utilities is "We'll fix this later," and privacy and security aren't being taken as seriously as they should.
This raises many questions. Could a hacker remotely spread a virus through smart meters and then disconnect power from thousands of homes and businesses? If so, it could introduce tremendous instability to the grid.
There are already conservation programs in Ontario that give a utility the ability to remotely shut off or control air conditioners, water heaters and other appliances when required to reduce the load during peak times. General Electric said last month it will offer in 2010 a "home energy manager" that can connect with and control appliances and a "smart" thermostat in the home. Could someone with malicious intentions gain access and wreak havoc?
On an individual household level, knowing hourly energy use can help thieves. If, over a few days, the load appears flat, it can tell a burglar you're on vacation and nobody is home to catch you breaking in.
"We're doomed to relive the 1980s and 1990s all over again," says Davis, referring to the hard security lessons learned by banks, retailers and others when computers became more networked and the Internet emerged onto the scene.
Stuart Brimley, manager of training and emergency preparedness at Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator, says utilities didn't have to worry as much in the past because their computer systems were all closed-standard, proprietary systems and therefore less vulnerable to attack. "As an industry we've been lucky historically. But that's changing," he says.
Brimley says the big fear is that the grid – from the customers that use power to the companies that generate it – is going to have more points of access that increase vulnerability. At the transmission level, this cyber security risk isn't lost on the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, or NERC.
NERC has mandated that big utilities and system operators comply with eight standards related to infrastructure protection, including physical and cyber security. "Right now, cyber security standards in place today only apply to a dozen different companies here in Ontario," says Brimley.
"The move to the smart grid expands that to many, many companies, every single distributor of power across Ontario."
Brimley says in his 10 years focusing on this area, he's had high-level access to intelligence information and there has been little indication terrorist organizations or rogue states have tried to attack power grids in Canada. In April, however, the Wall Street Journal reported cyber spies had penetrated the U.S. grid and planted malicious software that could potentially cause disruptions.
It's conceivable that as an evolving smart grid sees more points of access and vulnerability emerging, Canada could become an attractive entry point for disrupting our neighbour.
"There is no border when it comes to electricity," says Brimley, "and it's the same with the cyber threat."
Don't back down on wind turbines
August 03, 2009  
Wind farms are loved or loathed – touted as a source of green energy or decried as a blight on the landscape. Increasingly, though, opponents of wind turbines are also claiming that they make people sick.
Such comments were among the hundreds submitted to the province last month in response to proposed regulations implementing the Green Energy Act and increasing the amount of power we get through renewable sources, such as wind.
While health and safety fears about wind turbines seem to be growing, solid evidence to sustain them is not.
One thorough study of available research, conducted by the Chatham-Kent public health department, categorically states: "Although opposition to wind farms on aesthetic grounds is a legitimate point of view, opposition to wind farms on the basis of potential adverse health consequences is not justified by the evidence."
This finding bolsters Ontario's decision to pursue more wind projects. But the province ought not to leave such research up to officials in individual municipalities, who face opposition from anti-wind activists every time a project is proposed in their jurisdictions. The local battles create uncertainty and delay – the very things the Green Energy Act was supposed to reduce.
For renewable energy to have a future in Ontario, public support and confidence in wind farms is essential. The province should lead the way by ensuring that Ontarians have access to the most up-to-date research on the impact of wind turbines on public health.
In April, the government said it would fund a university-based research initiative "to examine potential public health effects of renewable energy projects." But the initiative has not yet been launched. The province ought to make it a priority, with a special focus on wind turbines. That would ensure that Ontario's regulations governing wind turbines are based on the best possible evidence.
Right now, unfortunately, there are concerns that Ontario's proposed regulations for wind turbines are not grounded in science. Rather, the government appears to be attempting to placate an alarmist anti-wind lobby.
There are wind turbines operating – and meeting provincial noise guidelines – less than 500 metres away from homes; yet the province has proposed a greater minimum setback of 550 metres from dwellings and 125 metres from property lines, roads and railroads.
As proposed, the regulations would eliminate three-quarters of the wind turbine projects set for construction, according to wind energy advocates. If so, the regulations would undermine the Green Energy Act rather than support its implementation.
The province is currently reviewing the proposed regulations in light of the comments it has received from both pro- and anti-wind groups. Clearly the way forward is to adjust the regulations to facilitate the construction of wind farms while launching a study of the potential health effects to allay the opponents' concerns.

For a different perspective:

Are wind farms a health risk? US scientist identifies 'wind turbine syndrome'


Noise and vibration coming from large turbines are behind an increase in heart disease, migraine, panic attacks and other health problems, according to research by an American doctor 

By Margareta Pagano


Submitted by Linda


Visit to Montreal

I just spent 36 hours in Montreal - my first trip back here since summer '03. I wonder how anyone who is electrosensitive can survive in this city. I am now in the lush green mountains of Massachussets and plan to soak up some of the green-ness here.

There are many more towers and antennae in Montreal compared to Vancouver, where there are tolerable pockets between dense areas of electrosmog.

My 82 year old father lives in an apartment building across from a seniors care facility for the elderly who are unable to care for themselves (Maimonides Geriatric Care). From looking at equipment maps I had suspected - and was correct - that there is a huge antenna farm on the roof of the facility/hospital, 300 feet from my father's apartment. My father tells me that he has terrible, stressful dreams and nightmares and often wakes up disoriented. Has had poor sleep for years.This has to be the height of "insensitive siting" of cell antennae.

My hotel near the airport was another jackpot. I think the Wi-Fi router for my entire floor was in my room - luckily, I was able to pull the power plug There also was wired Internet in my room - unfortunately, it didn't not work unless the wireless router was plugged in. Every bulb in my room was a CFL. I simply did not turn them on.

I firmly believe that the percentage of the population that suffers from ES is far more than three percent. At a social gathering in Vancouver last week I was introduced to a Realtor who has serious sleep problems. The Realtor's sister (who is a massage therapist) was asking me about symptoms of electrosensitivity and insisted that I speak with her. After asking a few more questions I learned that the Realtor, who spends a lot of time on her cell phone, has serious short term memory problems, heating and pain in her ear when she speaks on a cell phone, foggy brain and other classic symptoms of ES and has had no idea what was causing all these symptoms. I passed on some links to the Realtor, including one to purchase an air tube headset.

Those of us who are ES need to keep telling our story and breaking through the lack of awareness - it is the only hope for the kind of change we would like to see in the medical profession, all levels of government and the industry. My view is that it has to be a dialog - when we become combative we lose the opportunity to work collaboratively. I know how challenging it can be to remain calm in the face of so much indifference and even mockery - this situation is absolutely absurd, but as a good friend of mine continually reminds me, you can catch more bees with honey.