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From our series of questions in the newspaper we can answer:

Are smart meters safe from hackers?

Yes, it’s a sponsored article demonstrating Betteridge’s Law but still.

26 thoughts on “No”

  1. Depends which hackers you’re talking about. It maybe secure from Vladimir in Omsk, personally I’m more worried about the civil servants in Whitehall telling the power companies to cut my power off in order to manage their failing energy grid because of all the intermittent renewable power generation they decided was necessary.

  2. As a professional hacker, I’m refusing to let them in to install a smart meter.

    Mind you, I’m more concerned about the power company fiddling with my supply than I am about J Random Hackr. Although a ransomware carrying worm attacking the no-doubt out of date O/S on the smart meter would be a right pain in the arrse.

  3. Do these wretched devices have to piggy back on the household wi-fi, or do they contain their own mobile SIM to call home?

  4. Slightly off topic, apparently, anyone with a heart pacemaker should reconsider having a smart meter installed as they use microwave technology which can affect the pacemaker.

  5. They are instruments of control and tyranny as well as being the only way the ecofreakshow can try and extend the life of their “renewable” circus.

    I say “extend the life” because the collapse of the Green Grid Circus is inevitable. It is just a question of how long the agony can be extended. They have already installed thousands of diesel jennys –without regard to “pollution” (good)to sustain them thro winter demand peaks.

  6. Surreptitious Evil

    My thoughts near enough – having had a suspect domestic meter replaced for running at 2x speed when I checked it with in-calibration kit – only for it to be replaced and subsequently “misplaced” by SWEB as it was at the time I don’t trust utility companies at all….

    Amazon etc are missing a trick here – a backup of the readings – held by an independent party looks prudent ….

    There are questions about the software too – a pal of mine (with software engineering expertise) looked into the subject on the previous generation of µP based non communicating meters and was less than impressed with the way development and testing were done in the case he looked at (he was triggered by anomalous readings)

    In other news I see one can now apparently have – yes… wait for it …
    Vegan electricty

  7. They use an embedded mobile phone to transmit the data back (subject to coverage).
    And watch out for the monthly ration card. They already print comparisons of your usage against your neighbours on the paper bills.
    It’d be a small step to the meter being given your monthly allowance and cutting you off when reached.

  8. “Surreptitious Evil

    As a professional hacker…”

    Could you hack into Spud’s site?

    You could fill it with bat-shit crazy ideas.

    No-one would notice the change.

  9. Smart meters are a bit like those energy saving boilers.

    You pay extra and recoup it all within 30 years.

    Fuck off.

  10. So Much For Subtlety

    Surreptitious Evil – “Mind you, I’m more concerned about the power company fiddling with my supply than I am about J Random Hackr.”

    I am with SE. Presumably it won’t take long for the power companies and the government to start lecturing us on our power usage. They will start asking why we are heating three rooms rather than two. If we really shouldn’t move to heating water at night. Why we want air conditioning.

    Tell them to f**k off. Although I like the idea of a revolution breaking out when the government tells everyone’s kettles not to turn on during the Final of the FA Cup.

  11. Will

    Not the household wi-fi (you wouldn’t permit it, or give it the password) but Zigbee or various similar protocols. That”ll be the route upstream to the smart devices.

    If it becomes legally enforceable in the future (everyone *must* have one), mine will get its own faraday cover fitted as soon as the meter chap is out the door.

    And if there is a chance (alternatively) of using mains to communicate upstream (household side of the metter), then a firewall of some sort just upstream of the meter should suffice. One of you scientists will know this – perhaps something very simple and low level, ie block anything not ~ range of 50MHz?

  12. Powerline comms back from property to substation was considered, (the substation atleast permits a decent aerial for the onward backhaul) but powerline coms radiates lots of interference over the 1-2MHz band (i.e Medium Wave), doesn’t work too well over any distance, and is easily blocked by a few ferrite chokes around a cable….
    Mobile phone (2G) backhaul works in some places, but for many, the meter location already is a faraday cage (basement etc) so the whole smart meter thing is doomed, even before you reach for the tinfoil.
    But just think of the job opportunties on such a £20bn boondoggle. trough trough.
    A useful outcome has never been a requirement of a UK Gov programme.

  13. Also, a current work colleague’s previous job was leading the security risk assessment for one power company’s smart meter scheme. He’s refusing to have one installed as well …

    Hack the Spud’s site? Could – probably. Won’t – illegal. But why bother? He’s the best advert there could possibly be for taking no notice of anything he says. The problem is that nutters who also believe the range of crap he peddles use the crap he peddles as “evidence” that their beliefs are reasonable. Just because two nutters believe they are Napoleon is not evidence that either are right.

  14. Slightly off topic, apparently, anyone with a heart pacemaker should reconsider having a smart meter installed as they use microwave technology which can affect the pacemaker.

    Most modern pacemakers report back via your mobile phone and home wifi, both of which will have a greater signal strength (on average) than your smart meter.

    I loath the very concept of the damn things, but that claim seems a little alarmist. Or have I missed something?

  15. Nick Hunn (who is in favour of Smart Meters) has been working in the field of short range radio and electronic security for more than 20 years, and he has been blogging about the UK’s utter shambles of a roll-out since 2011. His posts about the subject start here:

    Suffice it to say, we are well on the way to YET ANOTHER government lead IT disaster. As far as security goes, he suggested the possibility of a deliberate firmware “nasty” being incorporated many years back, and has been unable to get any official body to explain how they would prevent it happening. All of them (apparently) simply don’t consider it a possibility! As he rightly points out, several million customers being cut off simultaneously would do far more harm to the grid than even the best efforts of the “Renewable Energy” brigade…

  16. Tim the Coder
    July 5, 2018 at 11:48 am
    >forgot to say: see EMSCP
    July 5, 2018 at 11:52 am
    >Argh. ESMCP

    Tim, forgive me for asking, are you a not very good coder?

  17. I’ll install a Smarty Meter when all the local solar farms put up billboards like petrol stations with the amount of power generated in the last week and what they’ve been paid for it.

  18. The Pedant-General

    I did some work on a completely unrelated and non-mission critical topic for the National Grid some time ago. The security requirement they have as CNI (“Critical National Infrastructure”) was reassuringly frightening.

    However, Dave Ward hits it on the money. The parallel with the green boondoggle is rather fascinating: National Grid routinely models wind power as an unpredictable drop in demand, rather than as an unpredictable increase in supply. This remains a nightmare in terms of managing grid stability.

    If the grid gets out of whack, you can end up doing very large scale, expensive and permanent damage on both supply and demand side. And here we have the perfect attack vector for exactly that.

  19. The other problem with smart meters is their physical size. They won’t fit in the same space as an existing digital meter, as I discovered yesterday when the chap was standing in front of the meter board. And they won’t tell you how big the damn things are until they turn up with one and try and ram it in the cupboard.

    Good enough, another excuse to use to stop them fitting the damn things.

  20. @PF

    Faraday cage is my plan too. All of under-stairs cupboard.

    50MHz? Surely block anything over 57Hz. Problem is it’s illegal to tamper with wiring downstream of meter.

    Would wrapping a coil around cables disrupt signal sent back on cables?

  21. @Surreptitous Evil,
    My late wife had a pacemaker and defibrillator fitted due to severe heart problems. She mentioned to a friend involved in the technology industry that our supplier wanted to fit a smart meter. She was strongly advised NOT to have one installed as there were unanswered questions regarding their effect on pacemakers. We searched the internet and found quite a few stories of them using microwave technology, mainly in the USA admittedly, but enough to give us cause for concern. As a good friend, who visits regularly, also has a pacemaker fitted, I still refuse to have one.

  22. BraveFart: It’s a fair cop! 🙂
    The trick is to name all variables using only the letters O,0,I,1,l

    “Would wrapping a coil around cables disrupt signal sent back on cables?”
    Just a ferrite choke (in halves) will do, no interference to the cable necessary. But alas, the meters they chose use GSM (800 MHz), so its not carried by the pwoer feed.

  23. I believe that the first incarnation of smart meters used in the first wave of the rollout were “supplier specific” so if you changed your electricity supplier your “smart” meter became dumb…

    As for me, where I live (in the Severn Valley) mobile phone coverage is such that one’s mobile gets just about 1 “bar” of signal when placed on the top shelf in the corner of one bedroom – just enough to ring the phone, but not enough to transmit anything, so no need for Faraday cages. If it wants to use my internet connection I sit behind a commercial firewall, and I’m the one who “holds the keys”! 🙂

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