5:46 pm Tue May 24, 2016/
Smart-meter vendor says that if we know how their system works, the terrorists will win
Phil Mocek filed a public records request to find out how Seattle’s new smart meters — supplied by Landis and Gyr — will work. As Mocek writes, these meters are based on “unspecified and unverifiable sensors that monitor activity inside of private property and can communicate collected information in real-time to unspecified machines in remote locations, the workings of which are obscured from ratepayers, with interfaces used by [the city] that require specialized equipment and are thus completely unavailable to ratepayers for personal use or monitoring and verification of information communicated, is already shrouded in secrecy and seemingly proceeding despite repeated voicing of public concern and complete lack of public justification of expense.”
The city of Seattle and Mocek went back and forth on how much the documents he requested would be redacted by the manufacturer, and then, it seems, the city messed up and sent him an unredacted set of docs.
Now Landis and Gyr have filed for an injunction to stop Muckrock and Mocek from publishing the documents. In their petition, they argue that their devices’ security would be terminally compromised if their workings were revealed to the public — saying, in effect, that their security was grounded in obscurity. They even go so far as to claim that terrorists could use the documents as a roadmap for an attack on Seattle.
You misrepresented my position in your e-mail of May 11 . Nothing I have communicated to you indicates that I “will not accept redacted bids.” In fact, in my e-mail to you earlier that day, I explicitly requested that you redact these public records as the law requires.
Your agency does not get to determine what is good for the public to know what what is not good for us to know. Outsourcing the design of public infrastructure does not relieve your agency–part of our municipal government–from its duty to provide public records as requested. Nor do your vendors get to determine what is good for the public to know and what is not good for us to know. That City Light are charging full-steam ahead with plans to foist a system with great potential to negatively affect the privacy and security of City Light ratepayers upon us strengthens the need for public oversight. Your resistance to providing details of your plan suggests a bad-faith effort to keep the public in the dark.
I reiterate my request for you to redact any information that is exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act and provide the non-exempt portions of those records.
(Image: Landis and Gyr)
25 May 2016 at 23:41
Seattle Suehawks: Smart meter hush-up launched because, er … terrorism
Security through obscurity, amirite?
Smart meter makers are battling to keep Seattle’s power grid designs under wraps – claiming that if the details are made public, they could be exploited by hackers to plunge the US city into darkness.
Sysadmin-activist Phil Mocek requested documents from the city on its smart meter system under the Freedom of Information Act, only to be menaced by a lawsuit claiming the release of files describing the network would pose a major security risk.
Attorneys representing contractors Landis & Gyr Technology and Sensus Inc have filed a restraining order [PDF] seeking to prevent Mocek from getting hold of blueprints for a network of smart meters they proposed to the Seattle City Light power utility.
At the heart of the matter are the unredacted proposals submitted by the smart meter suppliers, which Mocek tried to obtain from city officials using freedom-of-information laws. Mocek had asked for the documents as part of an investigation into Seattle’s use of smart meters to monitor energy use within private residences. He isn’t happy that the technology is “shrouded in secrecy,” and is upset at the “complete lack of public justification of the expense” of installing the meters.
Among the eight companies that submitted bids to provide the smart meters and monitoring systems for the city grid was Sensus Inc, who, along with Landis & Gyr, was ultimately awarded the contract [PDF] for the meter network.
Mocek obtained redacted copies of the proposed designs – but he insisted on receiving documents that had only been censored for legal reasons rather than redacted on the whims of the smart meter makers. The city’s officials claim they are not qualified to censor the files, and thus have to rely on the vendors to remove various bits of the dossiers.
While Mocek and city staff tussled over the redactions, in a preemptive strike this week the contractors filed for an injunction in King County Superior Court, Washington, against the city and Mocek to ensure the unredacted versions of their proposals are withheld from the public, alleging that the release would put the city at risk of serious cyber-attack.
What’s more, Sensus claims Mocek was given unredacted versions of some of its documents and duly put the files online, so the supplier is demanding damages, wants the data taken down, and is asking for a list of everyone who downloaded the dossier.
“The information Sensus has redacted contains specific details that, if publicly released, would increase the risk of both cyber-intrusions and physical attacks on the utility grid,” Sensus says in its filing.
Sensus goes on to argue that if details of its bid with the city of Seattle were released in full, hackers could use the data to craft targeted attacks on its smart meters and plot attacks against the physical locations housing the network monitoring hardware.
The vendor claims that revealing such details to the public could “lead to hacking, reverse engineering, or destruction of the device itself.” Sensus did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.
There is some precedent for Sensus’ argument that its systems could be targeted by hackers. Researchers recently found that an advanced persistent threat malware infection was responsible for a power outage that struck Ukraine late last year.
Whether a US court will buy that argument and prevent the contractors’ bid for public funds from being released to the public, however, remains to be seen. ®
Should We Be Concerned About KUB’s New ‘Smart’ Meters?
by Rachel Milford
This July, KUB will begin installing “smart” meters in every KUB serviced home and business as part of their “Meter Modernization” program. Over the past five to 10 years, smart meters have been installed in communities all over the United States and across the world. While they do provide many benefits, such as the ability for consumers to better track their energy consumption, many communities have experienced alarming side effects, particularly in regard to health. In fact, in California, one of the first states to receive smart meters, 57 counties, cities, and towns have opposed the mandatory smart-meter programs, and 15 of them have passed ordinances banning smart meters altogether (view list at stopsmartmeters.org). Fortunately, KUB is providing each and every one of us with the opportunity to educate ourselves on the matter and choose whether to participate or opt out of this new program.
What is a smart meter? It’s a new utility meter that monitors and automatically transmits energy usage via wireless signals. The idea is that now instead of having to send meter readers to all of our homes and businesses, our wireless smart meters will send that information directly to a large cell tower constructed for that purpose. These meters will be sending wireless transmissions to these towers throughout the day in order to give KUB real time readings of each homeowner’s power usage.
This $54 million, four-year project will begin with the downtown and North Knoxville areas, as well as parts of South, East, and West Knoxville. Over the next four years, KUB will replace over 400,000 meters systemwide, installing one of these meters for every utility of KUB’s you use: gas, electric, and water. That is between two to three meters for most homes.
According to KUB, this new advanced metering technology will offer many advantages, such as reporting outages to KUB automatically, allowing meters to be read without need of a physical meter reader, letting customers view an online, detailed usage report for each of their utilities, and most of all, saving KUB time and money.
Sounds great, right? However, what KUB hasn’t publicly discussed much are the various concerns that these meters have raised in other communities. Smart meters essentially act like mini cell towers on each of our homes, emitting radio frequencies (RFs) that can radiate outward and into our homes. As described in news articles, as well as from personal testimonies to local governments and in court cases, people have reported headaches, dizziness, breathing problems, nausea, cognitive issues, and heart problems (among other effects) after installation of smart meters. According to Sensus, the company manufacturing the particular meters KUB will install, “RF energy produced by smart meters is not harmful and is comparable to cellular phone devices, wireless baby monitors, television broadcasts, garage door openers, microwave ovens, cordless home phones, and Wi-Fi networks.” This statistic, however, is based upon a time-averaged number, which hides the fact that RF “pulses” coming off smart meters vary in strength throughout the day and include peak pulses that emit at much higher levels, documented by the Electric Power Research Institute.
In 2013, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified RF emissions from electronic devices such as computers, cell phones, and smart meters, as “potentially carcinogenic” in the same class as lead and chloroform. According to the American Cancer Society, “Because RF radiation is a possible carcinogen, and smart meters give off RF radiation, it is possible that smart meters could increase cancer risk. Still, it isn’t clear what risk, if any there might be from living in a home with a smart meter.”
Despite the lack of conclusive agreement amongst health experts on this topic, there is a wealth of peer-reviewed scientific studies establishing a strong link between exposure to RFs, such as the levels emitted by smart meters, and biological effects such as cancer, oxidative stress/DNA damage, reproduction/fertility effects, disrupted immune function, and cardiovascular issues. In the 2012 BioInitiative Report, one of the best compilations of these studies, researchers observed these negative effects at levels far below the FCC’s current maximum permissible exposure limits for radio frequencies. For those interested, this 1,479-page report can be read in its entirety at bioinitiative.org.
In addition to health concerns, smart meters also pose privacy issues, as they transmit personal information about our daily activities to KUB through our energy usage profiles. As there is no law preventing it, this data may be sold to third parties, such as insurance companies, marketers, law enforcement, or government. Other communities around the world have experienced other concerns, such as meters catching fire and increased energy bill costs, not to mention the job losses that these meters cause.
What KUB is not widely publicizing is this: You have the right and the opportunity to opt out of receiving these new smart meters. Opting out will certainly lessen you and your family’s exposure to RFs. Unfortunately, though, the damaging effects of RFs can extend distances of up to 100 meters, so the decisions your neighbors make will affect your household as well.
KUB will begin sending out notices in June letting you know about the smart meter program and giving you up to 30 days to opt out. If you do not opt out, you will automatically receive smart meters. In order to opt out, you can call KUB at 865-524-2911. Stay on the line, ask to speak to a representative, and then ask to opt out. If you have questions about the program or would like to know when you are scheduled to receive a smart meter, you can email KUB’s Eric Greene at email@example.com.
It’s understandable that many may approach this issue with skepticism. Can we prove without a shadow of a doubt that this new technology will cause our bodies harm, that the RFs coming from our cell phones, Wi-Fi, and smart meters are making us ill? Do we know at exactly what level of cumulative RF exposure cancer cells may begin to appear in one’s body? Not yet. But what we do know, and what plenty of research suggests, is that the levels of RFs these smart meters and our other electronic devices emit may cause potentially significant health issues in people over time, if not immediately. This issue brings to mind many technologies once thought to be benign, such as DDT and mercury fillings.
Perhaps it’s time to challenge the current logic of our government and our industries that assumes something is completely safe until proven otherwise. It’s time to reverse the burden of proof. Let’s demand that they prove something safe before exposing our bodies to it. We have the intelligence and capability necessary to create new technologies that both advance efficiency and promote the wellness of our human and ecological communities.
For those of you interested in learning more, the local group Stop KUB Smart Meters will be screening an award-winning documentary on the topic called Take Back Your Power on Friday, May 27, at 7 p.m. at the Birdhouse Community Center (800 N. 4th Ave.). The movie will be followed by a Q&A and open forum.
Rachel Milford is a community health advocate, small business owner, and a Knoxville native.
If you have an opinion on a Knoxville issue that you’d like to share, please submit it for consideration: firstname.lastname@example.org.