First Open Source Smart Meter Hacking Tool Released

US information security consultancy SecureState has released the first ever open source tool for smart meter hacking.

The “Termineter” is a framework written in Python that enables grid operators and administrators to test the security of networked utility meters to find any holes that could be used by cyber criminals to cause carnage.

The software was demonstrated during a presentation entitled “How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Smart Meter” at Security B-Sides in Las Vegas last week.

Judgement Day

SecureState hopes their work will help promote security awareness around smart meters. If the devices are compromised, it could allow energy consumption fraud, and in the worst case, even let attackers cause power outages.

SecureState said its software allows testers to view and alter raw information stored on smart meter devices, which in turn can be used to initiate procedures. Certain modules in meters require passwords in order to be used, which is where hacking comes in use.

However, we are unlikely to see hordes of techies using the new tool. The company warns that use of Termineter requires specialist knowledge of the meter’s internal workings.

Neither Termineter nor the modules contained within it carry any vendor specific information. The design of the software was largely dependent on the ANSI published standards which can be purchased by the general population. Termineter interacts with smart meters using the ANSI C12.18 and ANSI C12.19 protocols.

The open source framework can be downloaded through the Google code repository.

Story so far

Smart meters give consumers accurate real-time information about the amount of energy they are using, helping them to understand and manage their consumption, while saving money. Smart metering also facilitates the development of smart grids, which integrate the actions of all connected users in order to deliver electricity supplies more efficiently.

In 2010, the UK government launched a programme aiming to introduce 53 million smart meters across the country. According to a recent study by IMS Research and commissioned by Cambridge-based supplier Sentec, approximately 65 percent of UK homes will be fitted with smart meters by 2015.

However, the programme has attracted a lot of criticism due to the fears that the costs were not being controlled and would be passed on to consumers. Several experts have also highlighted that the benefits of smart meters are largely unproven, prompting the executive director of consumer website “Which?” Richard Lloyd to describe the programme as a “potential £11 billion fiasco”.

Earlier this year, Pilgrim Beart, founder of energy monitor company AlertMe, told TechWeekEurope that the actual costs of the roll-out might be closer to £15 billion.

Last week, SmartReach, one of the consortia bidding to provide infrastructure for the government’s smart metering drive, started a test of its metering system in 1,000 homes in the Ipswich area, in collaboration with Scottish Power and Siemens.

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Max Smolaks

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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