System Developed to Reduce Smart Meter Hacking and Cyber Attacks. Why Not Return to Analog Meters?

By B.N. Frank

Original one-way transmitting analog meters lasted on average 40 years and were not susceptible to cyber attacks or any of the other problems associated with wireless utility Smart Meters – including frequent replacement, fires, explosions, and more.

Utilities have little incentive to stop installing these meters because customers usually end up paying for them through rate increases.  The meters also allow them to collect customer data to analyze and sell to 3rd parties who then then try to sell additional products to customers.  Argh.

So tech companies are creating software to reduce the odds of cyber attacks even though they will admit they can’t guarantee complete protection.

From Engineering and Technology:

The new meters are useful for utility firms as they provide an easy way to track the energy usage of individual customers without needing to rely on self-reporting.

But they can also be compromised by hackers with thousands of videos online showing how to tamper with the devices, a potentially dangerous and illegal practice.

The UBC team has developed an automated program aimed at improving the security of these devices and boosting security in the smart grid.

“Our program uses two detection methods for these types of attacks. First, we created a virtual model of the smart meter and represented how attacks can be carried out against it. This is what we call design-level analysis. Second, we performed code-level analysis. That means probing the smart meter’s code for vulnerabilities, launching a variety of attacks on these vulnerabilities,” said Cybersecurity researcher Karthik Pattabiraman.

The method addresses smart meters’ vulnerability to what the researchers call software-interference attacks, in which the attacker physically accesses the meter and modifies its communication interfaces or reboots it. As a result, the meter is unable to send data to the grid, or it keeps sending data when it shouldn’t, or performs other actions it wouldn’t normally do.

[…]Hacked meters can even cause house fires and explosions or even a widespread blackout. Unlike remote servers, smart meters can be relatively easily accessed by attackers, so each smart meter must be quite hackproof and resilient in the field.

He adds that as with all security techniques, there is no such thing as 100 per cent protection…

Activist Post regularly reports about issues associated with these stupid dangerous meters.  Please see our archives for more details.

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