Smart Meters – How Dumb Are They?

smart-electricity-meter Several weeks ago while writing a report for a client; I was interrupted by my local electricity company who asked that I shut down my machines so that they could install a “Smart Meter”, on my electricity service.

Smart Meters to monitor electricity usage are just one of the latest technology advances to ensure we take the “green movement” seriously. A Smart Meter, by definition, can communicate with your electricity supplier who will then bill you, based on factors that include your electrical consumption based on the time of day and the season.

The stated objective is – billing consumers by how much electricity is consumed, and at what time of day, will force us to adjust our consumption habits to be more responsive to perceived savings, or additional costs. Hopefully, according to energy gurus, this will delay the construction of additional generation facilities.

Pretty cool – right? So what could be the downside to getting on board the speeding locomotive called the “green movement”, which is designed to make all of us more environmentally conscious? Or so we’re told.

Well here’s the rub – according to industry sources, communication technologies being considered, or already in use, include cell and pager networks, licensed radio or unlicensed radio, power line communication, and in my view, the most startling of all – the use of TCP/IP technology as a widespread communication method for Smart Meter applications.

TCP/IP technology has been with us since the 1970’s, and the one thing we know about this technology is – it can be hacked easily. So, of course, can all of the other technologies either in use, or being considered as a communication platform for Smart Meters.


Should we worry, should we be concerned, that the major lifeline (try living without electricity), to our way of life can, or will, be compromised? You bet!

In a recent article “Building the Smart Grid: Proven Methods to Secure the Future” by Joshua Pennell and Michael Davis, of security firm IOActive they wrote:

“IOActive researchers were able to identify multiple programming errors on a series of smart meter platforms ranging from the inappropriate use of banned functions to protocol implementation issues.

The research team was able to “weaponize” these attack vectors, and create an in-flash rootkit, which allowed them to assume full system control of all exposed smart meter capabilities, including remote power on, power off, usage reporting, and communication configurations.

The initial attack vector could also be leveraged to deploy a worm, much like the Blaster worm that wreaked havoc on computer systems in 2003. The consequences of such threats are potentially widespread and devastating”.

Scary stuff to say the least!

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m very tired of being held as a hostage to fortune in a present, and a future, created by and large, by the same illogical thinking patterns and by the same idiots who, in many cases, are responsible for the economic meltdown we are now facing.

Whatever happened to the application of logic?

I’ll leave it up to you as to what you see as the solution to this untenable situation.


Filed under Communication, Interconnectivity, Living Life, Networking, Personal Perspective, Smart Meters

5 responses to “Smart Meters – How Dumb Are They?

  1. No doubt the utility companies do not provide an “opt out”.

    I would be very surprised if they have given much planning to a “worst case” scenerio… and what the “estimated return of service time” is for a system-wide.

    And I wonder how much the hacker would charge you for the script which made the meter report half your real usage?

  2. dar

    hmm,SM must be based on good ol’M$

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  4. Jim

    The scale of the vulnerability all lies in the implementation. TCP/IP is actually a elegant solution to this. There are ways to use TCP/IP without the risk of hackers trying to remotely attack your power meter. The network of smart meters are probably not going to be routable through the internet. Doing so would be insane because electric meters have no need of youtube and twitter. The real worry utility companies likely have over the hackablity of these boxes is that their customers would make modifications to game their bills.