Meter madness: A welcome mat for burglars - and a target for vandals?

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A research paper presented at a recent security conference in North Carolina analyzed Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology and determined that it "lacks basic security measures to ensure privacy, integrity and authenticity of the data."

 

Data broadcast over insecure wireless links at 30-second intervals are like a welcome mat for burglars, according to the paper authored by researchers at the University of South Carolina, Rutgers and ieee.org and reported on in New Scientist. The idea is that burglars armed with a little knowledge and a few tools could monitor energy usage, log daily habits and target homes when no one is likely to be there.

 

But writing in the Technology Review published by MIT, David Talbot notes that the research is actually another reason to adopt smart meters. He notes that data from smart meters is encrypted, which is not always the case with data from the roughly 47 million older AMR systems installed in the U.S.

 

Additionally, Talbot points out that smart meters can be patched wirelessly whereas making AMR systems more secure would require swapping out hardware. Or alternatively, the study's authors suggest jamming devices could improve the security of the older meters.

 

Vandals targeting smart meters

In Australia, meanwhile, the physical security of people who live in households equipped with smart meters have police worried. That's because more than 100 smart meters have been vandalized or destroyed in Melbourne suburbs.

 

Whoever is responsible is spraying some sort of liquid chemical on the meters, detectives believe, which causes a high-voltage outage which could potentially start a fire. Worse yet, the main targets seem to be the elderly who are asleep when the attacks occur.

 

The Sydney Morning Herald tells of an 86-year-old man who believes the stress of someone trespassing on his property and sabotaging his smart meter is what caused him to have a stroke the next day that kept him in the hospital for a month.

 

The Australian reports that the police have not yet established a motive for the continuing smart meter vandalism.

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Just as in the U.S., smart meters have their opponents down under. We told you earlier this year about Australian smart meter skeptics using paint to keep out death rays.

 

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