New Reason to Hate Smart Meters - NBC Bay Area

New Reason to Hate Smart Meters

Pacific Gas and Electric says it has done "extensive testing"



    New Reason to Hate Smart Meters
    The race to build out smart meter networks could mean that safety and security concerns are overlooked.

    Websites and mobile devices have proven plenty easy to compromise through software and hardware security problems. But as new "smart" utility networks come on line, the implications of a vulnerability loom much, much larger.

    While the devices also promise more efficient management of power generation by utilities, smart appliances that know the cheapest time to do your laundry, and the ability to closely manage your home energy use, these strengths could also be weaknesses.

    Imagine someone being able to turn on or off individual appliances in your home, cut off your power entirely, or read and even inflate your bill from near or far. Those are some of the frightening possibilities of an attack on a compromised smart meter system.

    And the haste to adopt smart meter systems may mean suppliers and utilities aren't asking too many of these questions.

    "Right now a lot of utilities are in a mad grab for money because of the stimulus package. Billions [of Federal stimulus dollars] are on the table, so they are moving forward with metering projects and they're spending money as fast as they can," Red Tiger Security's Jonathan Pollet told CNet.

    Pollet said that already there are cases where data from the systems are being manipulated to reduce bills and disable the devices.

    And when Web tools that allow users to monitor energy use roll out, they become yet another vector for attack.

    "We have done extensive testing and preparation to ensure we protect the SmartMeter network," a spokesperson for PG&E assured CNet. State Senator Dean Florez has called for an independent audit of smart meter reliability.

    And independent audit of the devices' vulnerability might also be in order.

    Jackson West figures its only a matter of time until somebody owns a PG&E-brand smart meter.