UK Government: We’ll Secure Smart Meters

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The Department for Energy and Climate Change has moved to reassure users over fears on smart grids

The UK Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) says security will be critical to any widespread deployment of smart metering technology after reports that the systems could be open to hacking.

A recent report has highlighted security risks in smart meters, which the government plans to roll out to all houses in the UK. However, plans for the rollout are still being formulated, and security will be a priority, a spokesperson for the DECC told eWEEK Europe.

“The UK Government announced its intention to mandate a roll out of smart meters for all households in Great Britain last year. We are now considering more detailed plans for how smart meters should be rolled out. The specifications of the technology have yet to be decided but of course security will be a priority,” the spokesperson said.

Smart meters are end-user devices that monitor electricity usage and can be used by home owners and businesses to more accurately measure their power usage. Combined with other technology in electricity distribution systems, smart meters can be uses to create so-called smart grids and are a major part of government plans to meet carbon emissions targets, with the UK government planning to install smart meters in all homes by 2020.

The decision to back smart metering technology was announced last year by energy minister Lord Hunt. The government expects the planning process for smart metering to take around two years with the full rollout to home owners and businesses expected to take up to ten years. It is not clear whether the government will subsidise the technology to encourage uptake or how it will work with the private sector to deliver devices to end users.

Earlier this month, researchers from US security consultancy IOActive created a worm that could spread from one smart metering device to another thanks to the wireless technology that is used to connect them, according to reports.

Once the worm had spread through the devices on a smart grid, the security consultants claimed they would be able to gain control of the system and potentially shut it down. The researchers have admitted that the full results of their investigation may never be made public due to their sensitive nature.