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Powerline Adapters

Posted on 2013-06-19
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Last Modified: 2013-06-19
I have a very strange situation. I was at a client and we had to use Powerline adapters for a network point.
When I plugged in the powerlines I noticed that another router was broadcasting on his network. Actually then I realized it was his neighbor's router!!
If powerlines manage to travel on the electricity company grid, this is a big security flaw!
I was in his neighbor's network obviously!
Does any expert know if this might happen?
To be honest I immediately suspected that his neighbor might be steeling electricity (maybe) from my client.

Any engineer can explain this from a technical side of view?

Thanks in advance!
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Question by:pcgeneration
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Darr247 earned 2000 total points
ID: 39259843
Apparently the 2 residences are on the same transformer, and the neighbor uses powerline adapters too. Both without security enabled on either set of the powerline adapters.

No different than setting up WiFi with no passphrase, really... except Windows won't warn you about that being a possible security vulnerability since manufacturers figure if you have physical access to the network cable you must be allowed to be there.

While it's common for multiple buildings to share the same step-down transformer from the transmission line voltage, their metering typically occurs at the service entrance.

Enable the built-in security on the customer's powerline adapters (usually done with a semi-automatic "pairing" sequence), and the neighbor won't be able to access the customer's network.
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Author Comment

by:pcgeneration
ID: 39259939
Cheers Darr247 for your quick and technical reply.
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LVL 44

Expert Comment

by:Darr247
ID: 39259961
No problem... I didn't know to what level of 'technical' you wanted to go after the deduction that both the customer and neighbor's service drops came from the same transformer... like how transformers work, voltage drop, ampacity, et cetera.

> If powerlines manage to travel on the electricity company grid, this is a big security flaw!

The transformers used by utilities - to step the voltages up (to essentially increase ampacity and make up for voltage drop) during transmission, and step them down for typical usage levels - are the main impediment to Ethernet over Powerlines on a large scale... otherwise most people would get their internet connections from the electrical grid by now.

All powerline adapters I've ever seen had security built-in... all you have to do is enable it. Also, just like wireless routers used to come with security disabled but most now have it enabled by default, most powerline manufacturers are now starting to ship the devices with security enabled by default, too, so they won't work without going through the 'pairing' sequence.
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Author Comment

by:pcgeneration
ID: 39259977
Thanks for the further explanation. Much appreciated.
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