Government's smart meter project could be a security risk

MPs said the government needs to ensure the highest level of security is implemented to prevent an energy outage

The government's smart meter project could leave homes open to cyber attack, MPs have warned.

The scheme aims to have offered every home and business in the UK a new way of monitoring their energy usage by the end of 2020, which means installing up to 53 million meters in 30 million homes and business premises over the next four years.

Advertisement - Article continues below

A study ocommissioned by the Science and Technology Committee consulted experts from the Royal Academy of Engineering and private technology companies about the security of the meters. During their investigations, programmers found they could hack into the smart meters' systems, potentially taking them offline.

Nick Hunn, a wireless technology consultant, said the inclusion of an isolation switch in each meter was, in particular, 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," Hunn said.

He also warned of the potential risk of a "rougue programmer" working within a metering company.

"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 added.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The government has invited GCHQ to help design the security for the smart meter system, including the addition of multiple layers of security to stop them all being disconnected at the same time. Anyone wanting to make significant changes to the system also has to be vetted first.

Advertisement - Article continues below

"GCHQ's involvement in designing the security for the smart metering system gives confidence that security is being taken seriously," Tania Mathias, the committee's interim chair said.

"But the government will need to do more to convince and reassure customers that the technology is safe from being hacked."

The report also said people don't know the benefits to using smart meters, adding that home and business owners don't realise that if they decide to switch providers, their meter may not work.

"The government has known for years that early smart meters can lose their smartness if the customer switches supplier," Mathias said.

"Ministers merely have an 'ambition' to fix this by 2020. Taxpayers will be unimpressed with this situation, and timely action is needed. The evidence shows that homeowners and businesses need to receive tailored advice about how they can benefit from smart metering.

"The 'smartness' comes from what customers can do with them - fit and forget would be a wasted opportunity," she added.

Featured Resources

Navigating the new normal: A fast guide to remote working

A smooth transition will support operations for years to come

Download now

Putting a spotlight on cyber security

An examination of the current cyber security landscape

Download now

The economics of infrastructure scalability

Find the most cost-effective and least risky way to scale

Download now

IT operations overload hinders digital transformation

Clearing the path towards a modernised system of agreement

Download now


video conferencing

Taiwan becomes first country to ban Zoom amid security concerns

8 Apr 2020

Who’s watching you watch them?

15 Mar 2020
Policy & legislation

Ofcom handed remit to police Silicon Valley giants

12 Feb 2020

Amazon will pass on 2% digital tax to sellers

16 Jan 2020

Most Popular


How to find RAM speed, size and type

24 Jun 2020

Microsoft releases urgent patch for high-risk Windows 10 flaws

1 Jul 2020

The top 12 password-cracking techniques used by hackers

12 Jun 2020