To the Editor:
I would like to share with everyone the insights from a prestigious university's studies. This is rather like another 'put a frog in cool water and raise the heat... the frog will not notice the intensity increasing' until it is too late, of course.
Ross Anderson, professor in security engineering at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, warns that the move to smart metering introduces a "strategic vulnerability" that hackers might conceivably exploit to remotely switch off elements on the gas or electricity supply grid.
In his “Who controls the off switch?” paper, Anderson and colleague Shailendra Fuloria build on the Cambridge team's earlier work on the security economics of the worldwide move to smart metering. The computer scientists warn the move is fraught with hidden risks.
"The off switch creates information security problems of a kind, and on a scale, that the energy companies have not had to face before. From the viewpoint of a cyber attacker – whether a hostile government agency, a terrorist organisation or even a militant environmental group – the ideal attack on a target country is to interrupt its citizens’ electricity supply… Until now, the only plausible ways to do that involved attacks on critical generation, transmission and distribution assets, which are increasingly well defended.
“Smart meters change the game. The combination of commands that will cause meters to interrupt the supply, of applets and software upgrades that run in the meters, and of cryptographic keys that are used to authenticate these commands and software changes, create a new strategic vulnerability."