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Security Holes Found In "Smart" Meters

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the intentional-bottleneck dept.

Power 224

Hugh Pickens writes "In the US alone, more than 8 million smart meters, designed to help deliver electricity more efficiently and to measure power consumption in real time, have been deployed by electric utilities and nearly 60 million should be in place by 2020. Now the Associated Press reports that smart meters have security flaws that could let hackers tamper with the power grid, opening the door for attackers to jack up strangers' power bills, remotely turn someone else's power on and off, or even allow attackers to get into the utilities' computer networks to steal data or stage bigger attacks on the grid. Attacks could be pulled off by stealing meters — which can be situated outside of a home — and reprogramming them, or an attacker could sit near a home or business and wirelessly hack the meter from a laptop, according to Joshua Wright, a senior security analyst with InGuardians Inc, a vendor-independent consultant that performs penetration tests and security risk assessments.""Wright says that his firm found 'egregious' errors, such as flaws in the meters and the technologies that utilities use to manage data (PDF) from meters. For example, smart meters encrypt their data but the digital 'keys' needed to unlock the encryption are stored on data-routing equipment known as access points that many meters relay data to so stealing the keys lets an attacker eavesdrop on all communication between meters and that access point (PDF). 'Even though these protocols were designed recently, they exhibit security failures we've known about for the past 10 years,' says Wright."

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Security holes found... (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646532)

And this is a big surprise?

Re:Security holes found... (-1, Troll)

ZDRuX (1010435) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646540)

Would be a big surprise if this was done by a private firm. But not getting things right when it's the government?... You're right, nothing surprising.

Re:Security holes found... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31646574)

Would be a big surprise if this was done by a private firm. But not getting things right when it's the government?... You're right, nothing surprising.

Huh? How is the government involved in this? Energy generation in the US is private industry.

Re:Security holes found... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31646648)

Uhh, it is pretty obvious. These meters are very screwed up, so the government has to be behind it. Government always screws things up, private industry is perfect. This is a well known fact, with centuries of experience to prove it.

Don't believe me? Check this out! "Government always screws things up, private industry is perfect" -- Ronald Reagan

I bet you feel stupid now that you know that God disagrees with you!

Re:Security holes found... (4, Insightful)

Sique (173459) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646588)

Where do you see the government involved here? As far as I understood the article those meters are to be distributed by the utilities, and those (at least in California) are privately owned.
So I call that a cheap shot from someone who wants his prejudices confirmed.

Re:Security holes found... (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646598)

While utilities are privately owned, they are still the most heavily regulated businesses in the country.

I do agree blaming the government in this case is a straw man.

Re:Security holes found... (2, Insightful)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646834)

It's heavily regulated for a reason (essential service, safety, etc) just like medicine and nuclear. Some things should be regulated.

In fact if it wasn't regulated, more screwups like this would happen.

Re:Security holes found... (-1, Flamebait)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646896)

5 posts before health care was mentioned. BTW, disagree with both your reasoning for regulation of utilities and your sig.

Re:Security holes found... (2, Insightful)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646942)

Regulation should be a last resort. The last thing I want is the government interfering with my right to make a living. And what I do on my own time is my own business.

But regulation is a set of rules, and are there for safety. Utilities, nuclear, medical, all have the ability to kill someone if standards are not maintained. Regulation should exist in these areas. What part of that don't you agree with?

And if you think heath care which is a social program, and socialism is the same thing, then you dont know the meanings of the words. Probably because you watch too much Fox news.

Re:Security holes found... (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647122)

The only thing I'm going to respond to (because I don't have the time for all your other points right now) is that about Fox News.

I actually don't watch it at all. I don't watch CNN or it's ilk either. I get my news from whatever source is presented to me on any particular issue (and if I'm presented with several sources, I tend to look at them all).

Re:Security holes found... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647784)

How can two things which arise from the same philosophy not be the same thing? Socialism is all about taxing people to benefit the "public good." Social Welfare programs are all about taxing people to benefit the "public good."

And when medicine was unregulated, how was it killing people? The only reason you and people like you wanted to "bring healthcare to the masses" was out of envy for the doctors' wages. I suspect in 20 years when all the competent, intelligent people have left the profession to the bureaucrats we will see just how wrong you are.

Re:Security holes found... (2, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647184)

I consider electricity to be regulated because it's a monopoly. Ditto cable television. And natural gas providers.

If they were not monoplies then there'd be no need to regulate them. If a company sucked customers would simply walk away, and thereby drive the company into bankrupcty (as they did to Circuit City).

Re:Security holes found... (3, Funny)

ZDRuX (1010435) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646606)

Typical slashdot comment I suppose? Don't RTFA and post assumptions? I dunno :)

Re:Security holes found... (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647154)

Typical slashdot comment I suppose? Don't RTFA and post assumptions? I dunno :)

Or slightly on topic weak jokes, don't forget those!

Oh, All your lights are belong to us!

Wow, almost forgot that...

Re:Security holes found... (1)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647450)

You left out the most important!

In soviet russia, power meter turns YOU on.

Re:Security holes found... (2, Funny)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647512)

Well, technically once it's hacked it "turns on you"...

Re:Security holes found... (1)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647528)

Bravo, kind sir, bravo.

Re:Security holes found... (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647216)

Utilities are government granted and regulated monopolies, so the line blurs.

That said, security issues aren't just the province of government.

Re:Security holes found... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647260)

Right, same here in NY. They were selected by our utility company to save themselves the money they used to pay meter readers.

But this is nothing new. I recall reading of flaws in these many months ago. It could be that some people are just beginning to notice, and then hoping the government will step in and pay for new ones.

Or, maybe like viruses on Windows machines, they serve some ulterior purposes.

Re:Security holes found... (2, Interesting)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#31648136)

I'd say the government is at fault for allowing shoddy meters to get hooked up in the first place.

I thought utilities were supposed to be regulated.

Re:Security holes found... (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647182)

Would be a big surprise if this was done by a private firm. But not getting things right when it's the government?... You're right, nothing surprising.

I'm not a big fan of government waste either, but security problems seem to be a universal evil.

Re:Security holes found... (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646568)

I was about to write a similar post.

Although this is certainly bad, it doesn't surprise me at all.

And the fact that we've come to _expect_ such vulnerabilities in widely deployed systems is very, very sad.

Re:Security holes found... (1)

flyneye (84093) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647068)

I think the big surprise to me is that all you have to do to get attention on this subject is point out obvious flaws in anything.
For instance, we'll just change things a bit and dress this story up a bit:

        In the U.S. alone there are more than 8million smart meters. However there are even more cars which could be used to disrupt the powergrid.
It has been found that cars are easily hacked, stolen and could be used to fill with explosives, set a brick on the pedal and send it hurtling into major power stations.
        In the U.S. alone there are more than 8 million smart meters.However there are several electrical service trucks filled with equipment,materials, manuals and tools that could facilitate hacking the powergrid. It could be done by a hoodlum or an employee with a chip on their shoulder and Allah in their heart.
          In the U.S. alone there are more than 8 million smart metres. However this could all be rendered useless by a power company who wish to pad their profits by reprogramming them to steal directly from our direct draft accounts by substituting a number representing a larger amount of electricity consumed by a homeowner.

      Now you tell me what is the more likely picture here. Now where do I sign up to receive remuneration for finding obvious security flaws?

I've somehow lost my fascination for articles like this. Seems they're just a pay fodder hack for writers to get one by an ignorant editor.

         

Re:Security holes found... (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647190)

Smart meters rely on (among other things) - FIPS. [wikipedia.org] Clearly the wrong level of it. Meanwhile, even FIPS isn't that reliable. /I just started to do work involving the stuff //FIPS is in basically everything in the US

What I want to know (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646548)

is why electricity costs money. It is just electrons, which are everywhere. If there weren't electrons, we would all be living on a neutron star like Pluto where everything is a sick off-white color and people talk really slowly becuse they are strtched into string beans and they don't have any electrical energies in their metabalisims. But somehow we are supposed to pay for this? Somebody is evil and somebody is Italian here.

Re:What I want to know (1)

mrjb (547783) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646656)

What I want to know is why electricity costs money. It is just electrons, which are everywhere.

So just use the electrons which are already around you then. Rub a balloon against your hair and harvest those electrons or something. Let me know when you manage to power your laptop from that. Or perhaps it's easier to just pay someone to deliver a steady electron stream to your house?

Re:What I want to know (4, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646668)

is why electricity costs money. It is just electrons, which are everywhere.

Electricity is free, it's the packaging and delivery that costs money. Just like water that comes out of the faucet, or comes in a plastic bottle, it's the getting it to you part that is expensive. Yes, yes, I know it's an inaccurate oversimplification ... just think of it as a metaphor.

Feel free to use all the free electricity (or water) that you can grab and take home. Heck, you can take mine too, if you can carry it.

Re:What I want to know (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647236)

Which begs the question, why are they not gettin up off their ass's and building more power generation plants as opposed to whining and crying which eventually leads to these stupid hair brained ideas in the first place.

Save money by cycling your AC indeed. The MONEY *IS* the incentive, not the SAVING.

The problem we have is our leaders have sold us out, instead of pre-planning ahead, and taking actions to prevent destruction, they scam the system, their lives revolve around re-election finance, the ONLY time they take action is when it's forced because something breaks (because they had NO PLAN AT ALL) and we have another disaster which has to be fixed with another fucking OVER budget debt.

Then they get out there and say they didn't know. They KNOW, they are ENCOURAGING this crap.

Re:What I want to know (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647548)

why are they not gettin up off their ass's and building more power generation plants

Because power demand increase as a curve and power supply increases in steps. Let's say power supply is currently 10,000 units. Next year the demand is expected to go to 10,500 units. A new coal power plant supplies 5,000 units at $1.5 billion dollars (approximate cost of a new plant). A power utility can spend $1.5 BILLION and build a new plant that's going to run at a fraction of its capacity for the next many years, or they can spend a few million dollars and trim demand to fit within their current infrastructure. If you're the power company which do you choose?: the $1.5 billion dollars that will be underutilized for the next ten years, or the few million dollars that ensures your system is running at peak capacity. Money IS the incentive. And the best way to make that in the energy world is to ensure that your current system is maximized in terms of its use.

Re:What I want to know (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647244)

Yes, yes, I know it's an inaccurate oversimplification ... just think of it as a metaphor.

Can you rephrase that in the form of a car analogy?

Re:What I want to know (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31648046)

Sure ...

What I just described as the engine of a Yugo is, in reality, probably closer to the complexity of a Ferrari's engine ... just think of it as taking up a metaphorical parking spot for my analogy.

Re:What I want to know (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646754)

Is why electricity costs money. It is just electrons, which are everywhere.

You're not paying for the electrons, you're paying for the non-conservative fields propelling them around.

Re:What I want to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31646886)

is why electricity costs money. It is just electrons, which are everywhere. If there weren't electrons, we would all be living on a neutron star like Pluto where everything is a sick off-white color and people talk really slowly becuse they are strtched into string beans and they don't have any electrical energies in their metabalisims. But somehow we are supposed to pay for this? Somebody is evil and somebody is Italian here.

What I want to know is where can I get some of the drugs you're on.

Re:What I want to know (1)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647418)

I think it might be a severe head injury rather than drugs in this case. Not as much fun.

Same same but different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31646554)

opening the door for attackers to jack up strangers' power bills, remotely turn someone else's power on and off,

While this is bad, this is the same situation as with the old, traditional meters.

Re:Same same but different (5, Informative)

peragrin (659227) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646612)

um no. with the old meters you can't jack up someone's power bill without shattering the glass globe which surrounds it. and you can't use a laptop to shut off their power. you have to physically cut the cables which leaves marks.

So it isn't the same situation. breaking a physical lock leaves traces. using a laptop to hack the meter and kill power to each house. doesn't leave a lot of marks that can be traced.

Re:Same same but different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31646650)

um no. with the old meters you can't jack up someone's power bill without shattering the glass globe which surrounds it. and you can't use a laptop to shut off their power. you have to physically cut the cables which leaves marks.

Sure you can! I saw it in a movie once! AND, the geek was able to tap into the air traffic control, credit card bureaus, all the police cars, the President's phone and an alien space ship with their Mac!

Re:Same same but different (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646682)

Sure you can! I saw it in a movie once! AND, the geek was able to tap into the air traffic control, credit card bureaus, all the police cars, the President's phone and an alien space ship with their Mac!

But the Mac was running Linux via VMWare, so it was really Linux that saved us all ... and fixed my credit score.

Re:Same same but different (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646672)

um no. with the old meters you can't jack up someone's power bill without shattering the glass globe which surrounds it. and you can't use a laptop to shut off their power. you have to physically cut the cables which leaves marks.

So it isn't the same situation. breaking a physical lock leaves traces. using a laptop to hack the meter and kill power to each house. doesn't leave a lot of marks that can be traced.

Heh, if you think that police actually investigate crimes like this, you're very optimistic. They won't even come out if someone broke into your car or house and stole all your crap... you think they'd send out a full CSI team to investigate a cut on a cable? They just tell you to call PG&E and get it fixed.

And IIRC, there are ways of tampering with physical meters without breaking the glass.

If I were the power company, I'd be MUCH more worried about people hacking their smart meters to get free or reduced service.

Re:Same same but different (2, Interesting)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647400)

My Grandfather swore by cow-magnets on the meter enclosure, and he worked for Detroit Edison. If the old fashioned cow-magnets worked imagine what the new niobium-rear-earth magnets of today would do. Personally I think it;s an old-wives tail, but I've never checked it empirically.

Re:Same same but different (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646830)

"um no. with the old meters you can't jack up someone's power bill without shattering the glass globe which surrounds it."

Sure you can, just put the plug of your dryer in your neighbors cellar when he's away and you'll drive up his power bill in no time.

Re:Same same but different (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647900)

Two different things! He mentions driving up your neighbors power bill by moving the gauge, while you mention driving it up by stealing the power. Stealing the power is using power that will need to be paid for. Simply changing the meter reading isn't stealing, but would still cause a world of hurt for the power company and customer. There is no way to stop people from stealing, but intoducing a new vulnerability to the system doesn't help anyone.

Re:Same same but different (2, Interesting)

jonpublic (676412) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646976)

I find this whole thread amusing since I commented that I didn't like the idea of smart meters, that I was worried about them being hackable in a slashdot post last week and everyone commented in response to me that I shouldn't be worried about this kind of thing. That they couldn't be hacked and if they were, there was nothing they could do except get my power information.

I wonder what those folks are saying today in this thread.

didn't the Chinese warn us? (2, Informative)

cryoman23 (1646557) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646560)

didn't the Chinese warn us? i mean i wasn't to long ago that i read an article here about some Chinese guy warning us about a flaw in our power grid....

Normally, I wouldnt recomend this... (4, Insightful)

Tepshen (851674) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646578)

...but there really should be a minimum security standard for infrastructure items like any city's power grid (or voting machines, or traffic systems, or water supplies, or any number of things you dont want folks monkeying with). Its really insane to hear about this considering how power stations and utilities are tightly regulated. It doesnt matter that the system is only open on the far end of the line because eventually someone will mess with it and show just why its a bad idea. Either make the system secure or dont make them so accessable.

Re:Normally, I wouldnt recomend this... (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646674)

For voting machines the use McAffee anti-virus and enabling Windows firewall are apparently deemed sufficient... :)

You're spot on: The absurdity of these issues never ceases to amaze me.

How to interface with a 'smart meter' (4, Interesting)

knarf (34928) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646586)

Let me take this opportunity to dig up my attempt at an 'Ask Slashdot' from more than 3 years ago:

How to monitor your electricity meter [slashdot.org]

This question was never published and thus never answered. Anyone out there with experience in this field? That IR-interface currently sits on front of the meter doing nothing at all while it would create the possibility to eg. create an accurate power use graph, power quality data - I'm on the far end of a long air cable so that is sometimes an issue - and more interesting things. I guess I'm not the only one interested in these things?

Re:How to interface with a 'smart meter' (4, Interesting)

Minupla (62455) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646680)

Not sure what things are like on your meter, a fellow at my local hacklab determined that the IR interfaces on the ones we have here strobe upon power usage much like the 'wheel' in old meters.

Also worth checking to see if your utility offers a website to interface to yours. My wife said "they should put up a web interface to so you can see how much electricity you're using" I agreed and looked at their website and lo and behold they had. Hadn't advertised it yet, maybe still in soft launch.

Min

Re:How to interface with a 'smart meter' (2, Informative)

broomer (209132) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647042)

The IR is also using a simple RS232 interface (9600,8,n,1) with some fixed password XOR encryption.
I did program(move program into device, set clock, set tarifs)/analyse(= read fault reports)/readout (check readings) these some years ago in a factory which made them for the european market.

I did not have the time to break the encryption, but had some work on coupling these things to GPRS modems. wired connection used the same encryption back then.

just using a breakoutbox and a second PC-port sniffing the serial data.

Re:How to interface with a 'smart meter' (2, Interesting)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646856)

My utility company gave me web access to my smartmeter, so I can check my daily consumption whenever I want, just like they can.

Is that the capability you are looking for?

Re:How to interface with a 'smart meter' (3, Informative)

a_ghostwheel (699776) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647066)

Not really a direct answer to your question, but I use TED-5000 from http://www.theenergydetective.com/index.html [theenergydetective.com] . So far I found a rather precise correlation between data from it and bills from electric company.

i'm asthonished (1)

aBaldrich (1692238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646618)

Since when a meter needs to have wireless capabilities?

Re:i'm asthonished (5, Interesting)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646640)

There no absolute "need" but it greatly simplifies reading meters "on the fly", since the utility company personnel doesn't have to park, walk up to the house, get bitten by dogs etc. So in the end it's to save cost and presumably keep energy bills down.

Of course, if there was a way gauge energy consumption truly remotely from a central location that would be better, and also negate the "need" for wireles...

Hacking: expect lawsuits here in the US!

Re:i'm asthonished (2, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646716)

Over here the meter readers use binoculars or a mini telescope. The meter has to be in a spot visible from outside though, so it doesn't work for all places.

But it's "wireless" too ;).

Re:i'm asthonished (1)

aBaldrich (1692238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646900)

If it can access the comapny's network and send in exploits and stuff; I bet it can also send the consumption numbers...

Re:i'm asthonished (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647162)

Thank god the FCC hasn't heard light of this, otherwise we'd have to build 1600' antenna with matching cement vault holding 20K watt transmitters for reading the meter on "Dudly's house." You should be glad the signal is only Infra Red.
You really don't want the HAARP array pointed at home to read your meter do ya?

Re:i'm asthonished (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31646646)

To reduce meter readers' labour in walking from meter to meter. Though I can see the practical use for this feature (e.g. meter in an unidentified building past a path lined with prickly plants) problems which make wireless capabilities a necessity ought to be resolved as well (i.e. do not put meters in obscure locations in the first place).

Wow, blinkenlights in hughe! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31646632)

With this you could use a whole country to display a message for aliens, or to entertain the astronauts on iss. :-)

Completely useless (0)

Posting=!Working (197779) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646664)

I fail to see any improvement by introducing a computer into a electrical connection. They're still opt-in (at least here), but they really provide no benefit to the consumer, and a huge point of failure when something goes wrong. Even when they're working as designed, your air conditioner won't work as well when it's hottest. And now they have these huge security flaws that could let someone remotely turn off your electricity, change how much your bill is, and even mess with the electric grid. They really are a nightmare for the consumer.

Unless I could find that software, then I'd get one in a second, build some fake solar cells and windmills on the roof, and spin that thing backwards 24/7. I'd even build a perpetual motion machine that was secretly powered by electricity and claim it was producing it, just to mess with people.

Re:Completely useless (2, Informative)

Minupla (62455) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646698)

Locally they brought time of day usage, so if I do my laundry at night, I pay less then half what I do if I run it in prime time. Arguably this is a benefit all around:

* Consumers win with the option of lower pricing
* The Power generators win because their loads are more balanced, and they need to build fewer power plants (locally we have 3 nukes that only run for 3 days of the year for peaks)
* The environment wins as an offshot of point #2

Min

Re:Completely useless (1)

zarzu (1581721) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646726)

you might want to read up on smart meters and studies associated with them. they can help reduce your energy usage (together with near real time feedback provided by the meter) and change the usage distribution. i don't think i have to tell you why it's a good thing, for you and our whole energy/climate situation, to decrease your overall usage. flattening down the distribution away from the peaks we see today will help stabilizing and securing the grid (and reduce costs for the utility). obviously that doesn't excuse security problems in the system and they have to be addressed immediately.

energy theft has been a rather big problem in some countries and was an easy thing to accomplish. go ask italy why enel introduced smart meters back in 2001, even though they still don't profit of any userfeedback or newer billing plans. the main goal of introducing smart meters from the point of utilities is exactly to reduce energy theft, you think they're introducing flaws on purpose because they want to loose money?

Re:Completely useless (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646738)

build some fake solar cells and windmills on the roof

Building fake gadgets by hand one piece at a time, might be more expensive than buying a real one.

Most of the money in panels is in the assembly labor, the glass, the backer, waterproofing, the mounting brackets... If you're going to all that trouble, may as well stick some cells in there. Even making convincing fake cells to encapsulate into the panel is going to be tough.

On the other hand, an inverter is quite expensive and no one sees it...

Re:Completely useless (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646776)

No benefit? These things allow the power company to balance the grid load and "pass the savings on to you", as they say.

When I was in college, some 20 years ago, our home had a water boiler with a "smart" meter connected to it. The meter wasn't very smart and certainly not computerised, but it did allow the power company to switch on our boiler when they had some excess power capacity to get rid of. It was strictly opt-in (the boiler could be switched to manual), but if we used it we always had warm water at about 1/3rd of what it would have cost us at regular energy rates.

Re:Completely useless (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646788)

"spin it backwards 24/7".

So, uhmmm, why are you complaining?

Why aren't these things read-only? (1)

Evro (18923) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646690)

I can see the benefit in making meters network-enabled just to prevent having to send someone to read the meter physically, but why would you want to be able to control them remotely? That doesn't seem like it's worth the risk. Make the thing read-only, with some standard way of collecting the data - using SNMP or something.

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (2, Interesting)

Minupla (62455) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646710)

Remote disconnect, and firmware upgrades - the latter being a messy one. Someone did a talk at Blackhat/Defcon last summer where they rooted a meter and installed a custom firmware that would spread worms to all other meters and give the blackhat total control over the network through remote firmware upgrades.

The firmware upgrades are a double edged sword. Meters need them in case someone finds a vulnerability (which can exist even in supposedly read only devices), but if they're not locked down enough, poof.

Min

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (1)

Linuxmonger (921470) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646780)

Remote disconnect is a bad idea and shouldn't be there in the first place, the power company won't do a remote connect, they require a human be present.
Given that, the only thing the meter needs to do is transmit two things; the current read and some sort of serial number for ID - it can send that as morse code, there is no need for encryption.

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (2, Informative)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646940)

Authentication is still needed, otherwise some funny guys can pump up your bills.

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647298)

Well then put a signature on there, should be easy enough.

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647014)

Misinformed poster is misinformed. There are a few reasons why you want the remote disconnect (and yes, this is actually done).
1)You're late on your bill so they just disconnect you from the office. Completely automated, no human needed.
2)prepaid metering. You just pay for $100 of electricity, after which point you get shut off until you "recharge" your electric.

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647282)

Neither of those is good enough reason for the security risk given the danger of disconnects to paying customers during a heat/cold wave.

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647670)

How about my getting a reduced rate at my message parlor and strip-club so the can cut my power to keep it going to the hospital's operating room or the homes of elderly who are temperature intollerant?

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647868)

Good idea. Though I think it's better done with a specifically internet connected individual appliance rather than cutting electricity to a site entirely.

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647894)

Fully agreed. It may not sound like a big deal to some, but there are people who really need to plug in dialysis machines or oxygen concentrators at home. During heat waves, a power failure actually can result in people dieing from the heat.

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (2, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647808)

Actually, they DON'T need remote firmware upgradability, they need LOCAL firmware upgrades and a decent QA on the firmware. By making it remote, they raise the consequences of any security flaw by orders of magnitude.

It may seem strange in this day and age, but at one time we used to be very careful with firmware. It would be designed conservatively and then receive thorough QA. Then it would be burned into a write once PROM or even masked and run off as a purpose made ROM. And it worked! A firmware upgrade required replacing components and in some cases, a soldering iron.

I don't think we need to go that far to solve the problem, but requiring a local physical connection to update the firmware is a good way to keep a worm from spreading through the system like wildfire.

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31646722)

Simple, they want to be able to turn off your line, if you don't pay.

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (1)

Sollord (888521) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647084)

It has little to do with turning on or off the primary circuit to a house but a lot of homes int eh US have interrupter circuits on there central air units which they pay a lower rate on cause it lets the power company shut it down during high demand to reduce the chances of a brown out or something

Re:Why aren't these things read-only? (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647624)

I think the idea is for the utility to be able to talk to your meter, to set peak and off-peak rates, adjust when peak and off-peak times are and to be able to do it in real time. This would be much preferable to brown-out and rolling black-outs we get in response to grid emergencies today. Eventually your appliances would be able to query the meter and respond in a reasonable manner. For example I might decide when at normal peak to have the AC set for 74, high peak 78 and emergency to shutoff completely. In an emergency I might have the electric range oven shut off if the freezer needs to turn on and the computer go into hibernate after 5 minutes of inactivity. Being able to do stuff like this could mean millions in saving for both the utilities and consumer each year but also reduces the intolerance for insecurities to the system.
Some have propose having electric cars and hybrids being able to negotiate with the electric utilities on whether to charge or not and to even be able to sell back electricity at a profit.

Very meticulous methodology report... (5, Informative)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646704)

I've read through both PDFs, and they really go into a lot of detail on the experimental methodology. The main thing they seem to be concerned about (and the only vulnerability they detail) are extracting the encryption keys from the meter firmware ("some" meters) and reverse-engineering the command protocol. While this could be a threat, being able to turn off/manipulate individual home meters isn't going to have any far-ranging effects beyond that. It also, obviously, requires a lot of reverse-engineering skill. I'd be more concerned with someone packaging this into a bluebox-style solution for manipulating your own meter, giving you free power? Earlier in the methodology report they talk about IR ports and similar being unsecured due to the perceived unlikelihood of attacking them, but they don't detail anything about that in the presentation PDF. That would be easier to exploit, though, so they might be keeping a lid on the more critical vulns?

Re:Very meticulous methodology report... (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647114)

...being able to turn off/manipulate individual home meters isn't going to have any far-ranging effects beyond that.

It isn't until they turn off everyone's meters including those of the elderly, hospitals, military installations, and CTU.

Re:Very meticulous methodology report... (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31648144)

All critical systems have emergency backup generators, and I doubt that major installations requiring bulk power use the same systems for supplying power as homes; the power company probably doesn't want or need the ability to cut power to places like that. Intuitively, it would be like comparing one of those ISP-provided DSL modems/routers to a Cisco backbone router.

Re:Very meticulous methodology report... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647220)

It seems to me that the authors of the report are likely trying to raise concern about the security of this sort of infrastructure in order to drum up business for their security testing organization. I didn't see much in the way of specific exposures identified, every thing mentioned was theoretical.

I don't doubt that there are security weaknesses in AMI infrastructure, but speculating about it is hardly news.

Re:Very meticulous methodology report... (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31648082)

You seem to have mistaken the methodology description for the report; the report is basically the slides in the second PDF. The methodology report is obviously written after the research phase but before testing. And there's not really much of anything in there that could be taken as FUD or unprofessional behavior, in my opinion... keeping in mind that I've never worked professionally in the field.

Re:Very meticulous methodology report... (1)

bbernard (930130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647344)

One of the beauties of finding a vulnerability and doing the reverse engineering is that, once it's been done once, you can create tools to take advantage of it. (Exhibit A: Metasploit) So the skill required to determine the vulnerabilities is quite high, while the skill to use them later is quite low.

Beyond ease of exploitation, let's think about the possible uses. The goal of smart meters is two fold: providing both you and the utility real-time info about your electrical use. The second goal is to be able to control and adjust your use based on this info. This will incorporate the ability to shut down your AC for periods of time, as well as appliances like your refrigerator, washer, and dryer. (Seriously, this is the "end goal" of these things)

Having that data available is a problem. As a person with malicious intent, don't you think I can rather easily determine when you're home and when you're away based on your electrical usage? How about making assumptions about the juicy items you have in your home to rip off based on your electrical usage? (more engery used probably means more cool stuff to take, right?)

Having the ability to now affect your electrical usage is a problem too, right? If I can shut down your power remotely, can't I at least piss you off? Worst case, couldn't I possibly harm someone in your household? If I can manipulate the meter to claim that you're using more energy than you really are, could I cause you financial hardship?

So I think the ramifications here are pretty significant.

Smart meter (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31646796)

So would that be 39.37 smart inches?

Re:Speedometer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647384)

So would that be 39.37 speedo inches?

Re:pedo meter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647476)

So would that be 39.37 pedo inches?

hackers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31646814)

Anyone remember the end of "hackers" (the movie) ? They where showing text on a apartment building by controlling which lights go on and off...
Guess it is possible now.

Re:hackers? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31646864)

If somebody starts screwing around with the lights to play Tetris on my apartment building, I'll install red lights just to fuck with his game.

Here... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31646818)

My city-run utility company inadvertently drove itself into a political clusterf**k with smart meters. A large bunch of the smart meters were installed in January, then we had an extremely cold February that caused very high bills for some people, and the bills were blamed on the smart meters.

This is Not News.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647054)

Vulnerabilities were identified in the smart meters last year, see http://earth2tech.com/2009/07/31/smart-meter-worm-could-spread-like-a-virus/

The vendors for the vulnerable meters have since patched the buffer overflow used to propagate this worm, but they don't have a way to patch the meters already installed; the power companies aren't exactly storming Ma and Pa Kettles around the grid, replacing their meters. It is a safe bet that there are other overflows, lurking in the dusty corners -- hardware vendors still believe that obscurity is all the protection they need, and the government does not know how to force the issue without seizing control of private enterprise.

As for the grid being regulated? Hah. The CIPS regulations can be condensed down to "Okay, tell us you have a plan. And, from here on, adhere to that plan. We trust you to know what a good plan is, because we sure as hell don't know."

why? (2, Insightful)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647132)

I'm confused, why is it physically possible for anyone to remotely turn power on and off? That doesn't have anything to do with "help deliver electricity more efficiently and to measure power consumption in real time". Surely the entire software and circuity surrounding those features should be able to fail completely with the core system (supply of electricity) completely unaffected and oblivious? I'm tempted to assume someone has other, less marketable objectives for the smart meters such as being able to cheaply disconnect people who aren't paying the bill, and therefore the root of the problem is those inherently risky objectives.

Re:why? (1)

enilnomi (797821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647620)

Rolling a truck for short-term jobs like one-day service for a home inspection, or cutting service to a non-pay, or de-socketing/re-socketing a meter for service repair work is very inefficient. Hard to imagine any exec who wouldn't want to cut the expense for gas, vehicle, work hours, and risk. (It's one thing to say, "cheaply disconnecting people who arent' paying their bills...is...inherently risky objectives." Now go deal with those folks -- by definition you're losing money on them, and the field reps can be faced with threats, vandalism, bricks, knives, guns.... Be a good time to reassess "risk" ;-)

Not what they're used to considering (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647376)

The traditional problems utilities have had to deal with are of physical intrusion, either by customers or by neighbors, looking to bypass the meter, modify the readings, or steal electricity. They solve this (or at least reduce it to a manageable level) mostly with intrusion detection -- basically, seals so they know the meter has been tampered with. In this model, the only loss is money and so preventing it at high cost doesn't make sense; detecting and stopping it reasonably quickly is more important.

With meters which do more than metering, that's just not good enough. Significant effort must be made to prevent malicious people from surreptitiously turning power off, otherwise assholes will do it just for lols. It's not like ripping a meter off the wall, which will have the same effect but carries high likelyhood of getting caught.

Re:Not what they're used to considering (2, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647944)

If it can be done fully remotely, it might be done en-mass to destabilize the grid. Generators do NOT react well to suddenly having their load disconnected.

And IBM and other LOVE it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647426)

They are COUNTING on idiots that will depend on them. This is the IBM that ships their manufacturing to China and their software to India. Of course, they know that they have LOADS of security issues. BUT, like Windows, people will have to buy new ones to stay ahead of the crackers.

we're safe (1)

Krau Ming (1620473) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647526)

if hackers cut the power off, then how will they continue to hack???

More FUD and shoddy security analysis (2, Interesting)

tark.dom (1777700) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647580)

Great, first it was IOActive frothing non-stop about smart meters, now we have Inguardians turning the froth up to 11. This whole smart grid security issue never addresses the probability of an attacker actually being able to carry out a serious attack in real life. The PDF talks about theoretical attacks. It describes possible weaknesses. It does not assign any probability or likelihood to those attacks. As such, this is faulty and misleading security work. Its the kind of FUD "security gurus" resort to when they want to scare people into buying their services. Notice that the PDF makes sure to advise users to buy services like pentesting and code review - which of course an Inguardians sales representative can sell you. Any decent security analysis MUST include consideration of probability. Risk (the most basic measure of security) is comprised of both impact and probability. Sure, breaking into a smart meter could be a catastrophic thing, thus a very high "impact" rating. However, if the probability of doing that in the wild is enormously low. Something like 0.000000001%. Then the risk of this actually happening is therefore very low. Until one of these “researchers” shows the real risks involved here, and not a bunch of theoretical and conceptual data, I remain unconvinced that there are serious problems with smart meters.

Now I can use my severs to war dial and not pay fo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31647638)

Now I can use my severs to war dial and not pay for the power that will be a nice way to match my free phone bill that I used to call all the numbers in sunny ville ca.

I Smell A Rat (5, Interesting)

anorlunda (311253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31647844)

I was an engineering consultant for 40 years. I'm well familiar with the politics and ethics of engineering studies. Something is fishy here.

The AP says that Wright's firm was hired by three utilities. The web material suggests that it was actually ucaiug.org (an association of both vendors and utilities) Presumably, they financed the security study to expose vulnerabilities so that they could fix them. They did it openly and allowed the report to be published. That's laudable and responsible behavior. It is the opposite of denial and secrecy.

Normally, Wright and his team write the report and the vendors and utilities fix the problems. However, Wright is going pubic in a big way. He, with cooperation from the media, is mongering fear and suggesting that the vendors and utilities don't care about security. He's acting in a way that brings maximum bad publicity to his financial sponsors. That is extraordinary behavior for a consultant. If it was I that hired him, I would feel betrayed.

I really can't tell if he's doing it for shameless and unethical purposes of self promotion, or whether there was a breakdown in relations between the consultant and the clients. Somewhere there is an enormous untold back story.

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