Smart Meters “quietly broadcasting data” That May Reveal What Infrastructure Was Protected During Texas Snowstorm

By B.N. Frank

American opposition to utility “Smart” Meters – electric, gas, and water – has been ongoing due to safety and privacy concerns.  Because “Smart” Meters are 2-way wireless transmitting, they allow utility companies to collect customer usage data 24/7 which they can use to try to sell more products and services to customers and/or sell the data to 3rd parties to do whatever they want with it.

“Smart” Meters also allow them to remotely control services as well as ration customer energy use.  Utilities can’t do this with traditional 1-way analog meters.  Because of the 2-way wireless transmitting feature, “Smart” Meters are also at a high risk for cybersecurity issues.  A hacker recently used the vulnerability of “Smart” Meters to learn more about what happened during the Texas snowstorm.

From The Daily Dot:

Exclusive: Hacker reveals smart meters are spilling secrets about the Texas snowstorm

Power companies won’t disclose who was protected from blackouts—but smart meters may be leaking insight

Mikael Thalen

Published Jun 24, 2021   Updated Jun 24, 2021, 7:14 am CDT

Power companies across Texas have refused to disclose which areas of the state were exempt from controlled blackouts after a devastating snowstorm crippled the power grid in February—but one hacker has found that smart meters, the electrical devices on the sides of homes and businesses that monitor energy consumption, are quietly broadcasting data that could be used to determine what infrastructure may have been protected.

In the days following the historic freeze, companies tied to the state’s privately-run grid were met with pressing questions from citizens and lawmakers alike over how it was decided who would and who wouldn’t be plunged into darkness.

A Dallas-based hardware hacker and security researcher known as Hash first noticed one such refusal in early March from Austin Energy, a publicly-owned utility provider in the Texas capital.

Austin Energy has continually argued that disclosing what infrastructure it allowed to remain operational, such as hospitals and 911 call centers, could make the city and by extension its more than 1 million residents vulnerable to cyberattacks.

“We are not able to provide that information since it’s protected critical infrastructure information,” Austin Energy spokeswoman Calily Bien told the Austin American-Statesman at the time.

Yet Hash, who has been reverse-engineering the inner-workings of smart meters since 2016, says the argument contains one major flaw: Smart meters used by Austin Energy and other power companies throughout Texas quietly emit data that shows how long businesses and residences have gone since their last power outage. Such information could potentially reveal whose power was shut off and whose wasn’t.

Hash’s discovery was made following extensive analysis of smart meters produced by Landis+Gyr, a multinational corporation that develops both smart meters and related software for electricity and gas utilities.

From his home workshop, complete with an array of smart meter components purchased from eBay, Hash spent weeks in the wake of the snowstorm collecting, analyzing, and deciphering the data streams that travel across the massive smart meter network blanketing Dallas

Hash noticed a sudden change in the data values given off by the smart meters in his neighborhood as power was being restored following the snowstorm. Analyzing the data further, Hash determined that the readings represented the number of seconds each smart meter had been operating since coming back online.

Many utility providers offer customers access to smart phone apps that detail their home’s power usage statistics, including any periods when no electricity was used. Several days after the power to his mother’s home was restored, Hash compared the data from her app to the data being broadcasted by the smart meter on her home. The uptime listed by the smart meter, a little over five days, matched perfectly down to the minute with the amount of time that had passed since her home’s power came back on.

Read full article

On a related note, Texas utility customers recently discovered the hard way that utility companies were controlling their energy use through “Smart Thermostats”.  Argh.

But back to “Smart” Meters.  These devices have also been associated with HIGHER bills, fires (see 1, 2, 3), explosions, and health problems (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14) which have led to lawsuits (see 1, 2).  A 2017 study determined that 9 of most commonly installed “Smart” Meters had measurement errors up to 582% (see 1, 2).

Some utility companies now offer “opt out” programs because of all the complaints.  A documentary about “Smart” Meter awfulness is free to watch online.

Activist Post reports regularly about utility “Smart” Meters and other unsafe technology.  For more information, visit our archives and the following websites:

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