Smart meters are meant to improve the efficiency and regulation of energy in our cities, but are the systems secure?
According to Verizon's latest Intelligent Energy Brief, the smart meter -- a device used to measure energy, water or natural gas consumption of a building or home -- can be used by suppliers to tweak prices depending on the time of day and season. While this can mean an improved efficiency and better pricing for consumers, as the devices are Web-based -- with data sent via the Internet to companies -- this does open smart meters to exploitation by hackers.
Jay Cappy, global solutions enablement at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, has noted a number of security problems that utilities face to keep the meters, and therefore customers and their data, secure.
"Historically utilities have operated a strictly isolated control network. However, with digital meters connected to the network, there is a need for security measures and a defense in depth strategy in place to mitigate risk from worldwide threats."
Three key factors should be considered by utilities as they make the move to smart meters. Cappy recommends that utilities look backwards to improve security now -- using the past mistakes and case studies of cyberattacks that have broken in to meters across the world.
Secondly, the executive says that while security protection is usually designed for a smart meter's sub system, inter-system fail-safe measures and correlated monitoring is needed to keep consumers safe. Additionally, third party testing of sub-systems is required.
The final suggestion Cappy offered is for utilities to invest in dedicated design for analytics to better monitor, capture and respond to cyberthreats.
According to Navigant research, while smart meter installation has slowed in the U.K. and Brazil, China is steaming ahead. In addition, France plans to deploy three million units in 2014, and another 32 million will follow in subsequent years. The research firm predicts that smart meter mandates will drive growth in Western Europe through 2020, but legislative obstacles and economic problems have stalled rollout plans in Brazil, India and Canada.