Smart Meter: A New Spy?

PGE Smart Meter

Portland General Electric let us know we’ll be getting one of these before too long.

I was looking forward to it. I think I still am (because it sure seems like our monthly electric bills are high). But this article greatly dampens my forward look, so to speak:

Computer-security researchers say new “smart” meters that are designed to help deliver electricity more efficiently also have flaws that could let hackers tamper with the power grid in previously impossible ways.

At the very least, the vulnerabilities open the door for attackers to jack up strangers’ power bills. These flaws also could get hackers a key step closer to exploiting one of the most dangerous capabilities of the new technology, which is the ability to remotely turn someone else’s power on and off.

The attacks could be pulled off by stealing meters — which can be situated outside of a home — and reprogramming them. Or an attacker could sit near a home or business and wirelessly hack the meter from a laptop, according to Joshua Wright, a senior security analyst with InGuardians Inc. The firm was hired by three utilities to study their smart meters’ resistance to attack.

[...]

Unlike traditional electric meters that merely record power use — and then must be read in person once a month by a meter reader — smart meters measure consumption in real time. By being networked to computers in electric utilities, the new meters can signal people or their appliances to take certain actions, such as reducing power usage when electricity prices spike.

But the very interactivity that makes smart meters so attractive also makes them vulnerable to hackers, because each meter essentially is a computer connected to a vast network.

[...]

But many security researchers say the technology is being deployed without enough security probing.

If hackers can get that far, what’s to keep them from hacking into my computers even when they’re off-line? (You know, entering my machines through the power plug instead of the phone jack.)

And what’s to keep governments from conspiring with manufacturers (or secret agents at manufacturing plants) to put “bugs” in electrical devices? The idea of my toaster or my bedside clock or my phone answering machine eavesdropping and tattling on me is not a pleasant thought. Maybe it’s time to come up with a not-so-new lifestyle mantra: Go Amish!

OK, so now I’ve given the kooks more material. Sorry. :roll:

Well, you can read the full article here: New ‘smart’ meters for electrical utilities have security holes

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2 Responses to Smart Meter: A New Spy?

  1. T. & D. Lee says:

    Okay Mark…It is true we need to be aware that there are hackers, and do what reasonable things we can to protect ourselves. Even so, we cannot live in Paranoia-ville by worrying about Big Brother all the time.
    Yes…there are power-hungry souls that want to rule the world. Yes, modern technology posts as many hazards as it does advantages.
    But does anyone honestly think there are enough spies in the world to personally spy on each and every one of us through our Cuckoo clocks, microwaves and GPS systems?
    I dunno. Maybe when Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled” — He meant it?!
    Go Amish. Go Mennonite. Go German Baptist or Hutterite if you will. But go with Jesus…who will go with us to the end of the world!

  2. Mark Roth says:

    They can do it through cuckoo clocks also?! :shock:

    Seriously, though, you are absolutely right in asserting that “we cannot live in Paranoia-ville.” I’m inclined to think I don’t. :)

    “Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said.

    Thanks for reminding the readers of that.

    Note to kooks: Relax! ;)

    For the record, though, TnDLee, let’s be clear about this: There don’t need to be enough spies, just open doors left thus because there aren’t enough spies.

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