UK spies looking to protect smart meters against hackers

The UK’s intelligence gathering service is looking into ensuring the rollout of smart meters is not open to hackers. It comes after GCHQ reportedly saw energy companies’ plans to use a […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

The UK’s intelligence gathering service is looking into ensuring the rollout of smart meters is not open to hackers.

It comes after GCHQ reportedly saw energy companies’ plans to use a single decryption key across the whole network of communications between suppliers and around 53 million smart meters expected to be installed by the end of the decade.

The technology tells consumers how much energy they are using through a display in their homes and can also communicate directly with energy suppliers.

Most of the smart meters installed today use mobile phone-type signals to send meter readings to suppliers and other wireless technologies to send information to the in-home display.

GCHQ told ELN this type of collaboration is part of its role as the UK’s technical authority, “regularly advising other government departments on cyber security”.

A spokesperson said: “GCHQ has worked in partnership with DECC from the start of the smart meters programme to assure the security of the UK system.”

DECC added: “Smart meters will operate on a secure system that only authorised parties, such as energy suppliers and network companies, can access. Working with experts across industry and across government, we have put in place robust security controls which are based on international standards and industry good practices.”

Last month the government gave the go-ahead for energy suppliers to trial alternatives such as smartphone apps to display smart meter information.

Last year reports claimed the British intelligence and security organisation planned to monitor computer systems at new nuclear power plants built by Chinese companies.