Smart Meter Remote Disconnect: An ‘Unnecessary Risk’ for Significant Damage to the Grid

Robert Daniel 8 years ago 0

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"It’s easy to imagine a rogue programmer working for a meter manufacturers being able to insert malicious code which would turn millions of meters off at the same point in the future. That’s possible, because all of the smart meters being installed ... allow the utility to remotely disconnect your electricity and gas at the flip of a switch. If hackers turned off a million electricity meters in one go, that would cause serious damage to the grid. Turning them all on again a few days later would do even more damage, as restoring power when demand is unknown is particularly problematic and can burn out equipment on the grid, which gives a rogue programmer lots of scope to bring large parts of the country to its knees. …"

"I don’t actually think this is complacency – I suspect it is mostly naivety. Our electricity companies are not high tech. They care passionately about reducing outages, but it’s a largely manual concern – it’s about sending people out to cut down foliage, repair power lines and clear up after the occasional unlucky fried squirrel. It’s why they like the squirrel analogy – they understand squirrels, whereas they don‘t really understand hackers. Utilities have a very physical mindset, not a technical or intellectual one and probably don’t realize the firmware risks. Their concept of smart meter security is about people fiddling their meter readings, not terrorists bringing down the entire grid."

(Quotes are from Nick Hunn, of WiFore Consulting Ltd., who presented testimony at the UK House of Commons’ Science and Technology’s “evidence check” and inquiry into the country’s smart metering initiative.)

A network of actors continues to push for the deployment of smart meters. This network of actors, representing a combination of policy makers, utility personnel, and meter manufacturers, does not acknowledge the tremendous risks and costs associated with the technology. One of the most obvious risks relates to the remote disconnect feature which has the capability to be used by hackers as a means to inflict significant damage upon the electric grid. As inferred by Nick Hunn above, the current smart meter deployments should be halted due to the unaddressed risks.

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