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Smart meters vulnerable to hacking
Image: Brian Klug

How secure is your smart meter?

We can add hacking to a growing list of threats from the smart meters being rolled out by energy companies around the world.

For the time being, the threat is minimal because the smart meters will only send information one-way – providing energy supply companies with our usage information.  But as the so-called ‘internet of things’ develops around smart technologies that connect into the grid via smart meters (in the same way that computers connect to the Internet via a router), we will all be vulnerable to hacking.

According to Nigel Phair Director of the University of Canberra’s Centre for Internet Safety:

“Most of the devices are being built without any inbuilt security around them — and by that I mean password protection and no ability to update what we call the firmware as time goes on so they become safe devices…

“Once a device had been cracked, hackers monitoring real-time electricity usage could learn anything from when the refrigerator was last opened, to what program occupants were watching on television… that information would be valuable to burglars looking to monitor when a house was unoccupied.”

Nor is the threat limited to households and businesses.  According to Phair, hackers in Puerto Rico were able to hack business and household smart meters in order to reduce electricity meter readings by as much as 75 percent.

Phair acknowledges the many potential benefits of smart meters to energy providers and their consumers.  However, he argues that more needs to be done to make people aware of the security risks and for energy companies and governments to take steps to improve security.

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