Smart Metering

A smart meter is an electrical meter at the consumer-end of the electric grid that records and stores the consumption of electric energy. This information is passed on to the Utility for monitoring and billing purposes via a bidirectional link. This link can be either wired or wireless (i.e. a ZigBee mesh network). Smart metering can be seen as the consumer-end of the smart grid.

Smart meters are already being rolled out in many countries worldwide, the EU alone has a target of providing smartmeters to 80 percent of energy customers by 2020 [McKinsey Report].

Smart metering networks can be complemented by home area networks (HAN), therefore incorporating “intelligent” appliances into the setup.

Smart meters are unsupervised and low-cost deeply embedded systems, which can be compromised using different attack vectors.  Possible consequences of such attacks includes the manipulation of meter readings, the extraction of consumer information or the remote shutdown of the supply.

How big or significant is this threat?

  • In 2012 two smart meter testing tools (InGuardians OptiGuard and SecureState’s Termineter) were published. Both tools use the meters’ (ANSI C12.X compliant) infrared interface to check for vulnerabilities.
  • In 2009 researchers from InGuardians outlined a whole range of smart meter attack vectors – from hardware bus snooping to weak cryptography.