Engineering experts deliver warning on smart meter design

Analysis from engineering experts suggests significant damage could be caused to the UK’s power infrastructure unless more steps are taken to improve security around smart metering.

The FT reports that the Royal Academy of Engineering and private technology companies have raised concerns about the meters’ security, according to a report from the Commons science and technology committee.

Nick Hunn, a wireless technology consultant, said he was worried about the risk of “rogue programmers” in metering companies.
Cyber security
“If I were working for one of those companies, I could insert code that would make every meter turn off on a particular date in a year’s time,” he said, adding the inclusion of an isolation switch in every smart meter was “an unnecessary risk”.

“If somebody could hack into that or turn off very large numbers of meters by mistake, the sudden shock of taking them off the grid … would cause significant damage,” he said.

The academy added that “disruption to energy and gas supplies at a massive scale is possible”.

Britain’s electronic intelligence agency GCHQ had assured the government earlier this year as to the steps taken to ensure meter security. These included security controls aimed at preventing mass disconnection, and special arrangements made to vet people with “access to sensitive system components”.

More than 3.6m smart meters have already been installed in homes and businesses and 53m are due by 2020, part of a £10.9bn programme.

Advocates say the meters’ ability to show people how much energy they are using will encourage consumers to switch off lights or buy more efficient appliances, lowering their bills and cutting greenhouse gas pollution from electricity generation.

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