Smart electricity meters on homes provide ample hacking opportunities, expert warns – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Smart electricity meters on homes provide ample hacking opportunities, expert warns – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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Smart electricity meters on homes provide ample hacking opportunities, expert warns

Updated yesterday at 9:40pmTue 25 Apr 2017, 9:40pm

Smart electricity meters on homes provide ample hacking opportunities, expert warns – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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Smart electricity meters carry vulnerabilities that could assist burglars and compromise privacy, but Australian households are not being warned of the risks, a leading cyber-security expert has warned.

Smart electricity meters on homes provide ample hacking opportunities, expert warns – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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Nigel Phair from the University of Canberra’s Centre for Internet Safety compiled a report on the risks of smart meters, which send data on a home’s utility use back to providers remotely rather than being read manually by an inspector.

Smart electricity meters on homes provide ample hacking opportunities, expert warns – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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The report said some smart meters, mostly used for gas and water, only sent information one way and were safe.

However, risks were particularly evident when a connection between the meter and provider sent information both ways — as is generally the case with smart electricity meters.

“Most of the devices are being built without any inbuilt security around them — and by that I mean password protection and no ability to update what we call the firmware as time goes on so they become safe devices,” Mr Phair said.

The report said that weakness left an opening for hackers, who could exploit the device once it was cracked.

Smart electricity meters on homes provide ample hacking opportunities, expert warns – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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“It can mean anything from malicious software being pushed to that device, and amongst a smart-connected house, pushed to other devices,” Mr Phair said.

“It can also mean privacy infringing and also anti-competitiveness.”

Once a device had been cracked, the report found hackers monitoring real-time electricity usage could learn anything from when the refrigerator was last opened, to what program occupants were watching on television.

Mr Phair said that information would be valuable to burglars looking to monitor when a house was unoccupied.

“When a home has a number of internet-connected devices such as alarms or garage doors, the risk is heightened,” he said.

Risks present for providers too

A mandatory rollout means smart electricity meters are the standard in Victoria, and while they are available in other jurisdictions not all providers offer them.

The report cited research in Germany that found it was possible to determine what program was playing on the television by monitoring the specific electricity required to display each scene on screen.

Mr Phair said there would be an incentive for advertisers to obtain that information.

“Particularly when you match that to the types of other activities you do when you do when you’re at home,” he said.

“You really get a good picture of the demographic, the size and the type of household.”

Among the report’s other concerns was an incident in Puerto Rico in which businesses and members of the general public would pay hackers to slash their electricity meter readings by as much as 75 per cent.

Mr Phair said while smart meters offered undeniable benefits to both providers and customers, the risks were not being communicated well to the public.

“In one-way meters are great when you’re just pushing data to the network,” he said.

“But when it becomes a two-way meter, people aren’t fully informed of what’s happening to their data.”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-26/smart-electricity-meter-hacking-uc-report/8471894

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