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FBI Says Smart Meter Hacks Are Likely To Spread

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the ignorance-is-bliss dept.

Security 189

tsu doh nimh writes "A series of hacks perpetrated against so-called 'smart meter' installations over the past several years may have cost a single U.S. electric utility hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the FBI said in cyber intelligence bulletin first revealed today. The law enforcement agency said this is the first known report of criminals compromising the hi-tech meters, and that it expects this type of fraud to spread across the country as more utilities deploy smart grid technology."

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First! (-1, Offtopic)

Speedcraver (868818) | more than 2 years ago | (#39620847)

Post!

Re:First! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39620913)

Well that was dumb.

So how come they are "smart" meters? (2)

alexborges (313924) | more than 2 years ago | (#39620905)

If the new frauds against the new meters are equivalent in size to the old frauds against old meters, but with the new meters they are at least more easily quantified, it still makes sense to deploy them. If the new frauds amount to lesser losses compared to the older frauds, then its still worth it.

If not, Id try and find out who is getting the kickback for this idiotic things.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (3, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39620955)

I dunno...but the simple use a powerful magnet trick to cut the usage tracking down sounds fantastic to me!!

Simple, just put the magnet on at night...take it off during the day when at work....

I've been wanting to get some rare earth magnets to play with...hmm...now, maybe I have even more justification?

{BAEG}

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (3, Interesting)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621461)

The law enforcement agency said... that it expects this type of fraud to spread across the country...

Especially now that the vulnerabilities have been announced.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621683)

I've been wanting to get some rare earth magnets to play with...hmm...now, maybe I have even more justification?

Neodymium needs no justification. Go, buy, play.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621767)

You know you can use a magnet that is powered by electricity? Works like a charm...

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621859)

'No officer, I did not put that old hard drive on the power meter. I really don't have any idea why it's there.'

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (5, Interesting)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621865)

Smart meters do not use the old electro-mechanical method to measure power consumption. They are solid state and have no moving parts or coils that can be tampered with by a magnetic field.

Little story:
Back in high school I took electrical installation, basically you were taught to become an electrician for residential, commercial and industrial. We had an amazing teacher, a master electrician who told us how he cheated the meter to cut his bill down. Basically most older electric meters were "5-jaw" meaning that they had 5 contacts, two incoming hot legs from the street, one neutral and two outgoing hot legs to your panel box. If you cut the neutral leg the meter stopped spinning. So he "obtained" a forged matching utility seal (the numbered plastic thing that seals the meter to detect tampering) and ran two wires stealthily into the meter pan. Instead of the neutral leg of the meter going strait to the main neutral bus bar, it first went into his home to a timer switch hidden in a closet and back to the meter pans neutral bus bar. He said if you looked in the pan and didn't poke around, you would never see that the wires were diverted.
So over the period of a few years he finally got it to the point where he would only pay 20-30 dollars a month in electricity because he lowered it very very slowly over time. If you suddenly half your electric bill the uitility's billing software would flag you and send an investigation team out who will pull your meter and take it to a lab for diagnosis and inspect your meter pan. Well he was sitting pretty paying next to nothing while running air conditioners and pool filters but one day the timer burnt out completely shutting the meter off. He didnt notice and said it could have been that way for well over a month. The utility came to his house on a day when he happened to be home and pulled the meter. The lights went out and he decided to look out the window and saw the utility truck in front of his house. He ran out and with some quick thinking started screaming at the utility workers "What the fuck are you doing! My wife was carrying laundry down the stairs and she fell. I think she broke her leg. Im calling 911, and im going to sue your asses!" before he could get back in the house the utility crew plugged the meter back in and ran. He then removed his modifications and covered his trail. The next day an inspector came and rang his bell informing him they had to remove the meter for inspection and that they were sorry for any problems the previous crew caused. Well they took his old mechanical meter and installed an electronic meter that had a clock and a light sensor (from his description). It was a "4-jaw" meter (no neutral) and could not be disabled without physically unplugging it. He never heard back from the utility as he covered his tracks and they couldn't prove he tampered with the meter since he replaced the seal with one of the same serial number. He never tried to tamper with the meter again.

Goes to show you how easy it was to cheat the electric bill with a little skill, resources and patience.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (3, Interesting)

LiMikeTnux (770345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621933)

Most analog meters I have seen (I do residential) are 4 blades. You can actually pull them out and flip them upside down, and they will run backwards!

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39622051)

Goes to show you how easy it was to cheat the electric bill with a little skill, resources and patience.

Interesting story but to be honest, that doesn't sound very easy at all and terribly risky. His time spent concocting and implementing his master plan over the span of years hardly seems to have been worth it.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (1)

HungryMonkey (1887382) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623225)

Smart meters do not use the old electro-mechanical method to measure power consumption. They are solid state and have no moving parts or coils that can be tampered with by a magnetic field.

Ok, so I actually RTFA and according to it:

The bureau also said another method of attacking the meters involves placing a strong magnet on the devices, which causes it to stop measuring usage, while still providing electricity to the customer.

That certainly sounds like tampering with a magnetics field. I'd hazard to say that there a multiple types of smart meters,

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621007)

1. They have no security.
2. They have no security.
3. They have no security.

So, they are imminently hackable. They can install one on my house when they hold a loaded, cocked gun to my head.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621131)

Why would you care? Nobody has any interest in hacking your meter to *cost* you money and nobody has any interest in hacking your meter to save you money. The only people who have interests in hacking meters are the ones paying the bills.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621213)

Actually... if they installed these in my area, I would SO hack my next door neighbor's.... not to save them money though... I would see them spending more.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (3, Funny)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621383)

You're electric bill would be directly proportional to the number of quiet afternoons I had to listen to you music in my house :) Damn kids! you call that music?!!? Get off my lawn!

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (-1, Troll)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621513)

You're electric bill [...] you music in my house

One would think that a user of the 1xxxxx lot had more than enough time to learn English properly...

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (1)

pulski (126566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621969)

One would think. Your probably being optimistic though.

(Yes, I know)

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (2)

Firehed (942385) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622235)

You can perform that same hack with an extension cable.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621243)

They would like to find out when you are home and when you aren't home.

They would like to characterize your usage so they can predict what kind of goodies you have,

And I'm just talking about the power company and hordes of corporate marketing entities what would love to get this data. Imagine the boner it would give thieves and other criminals to have instant access to this information.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39622259)

And I'm just talking about the power company and hordes of corporate marketing entities what would love to get this data. Imagine the boner it would give thieves and other criminals to have instant access to this information.

Wait, you're claiming power companies and corporate marketing entities aren't thieves and criminals? Don't tell those hippies over on Wall Street.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (2)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621537)

They can install one on my house when they hold a loaded, cocked gun to my head.

No gun necessary. They can install one whenever they want, or they can cut your power.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621427)

Becasue it's a very nice [etymonline.com] word.

Re:So how come they are "smart" meters? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623031)

Smart meters have other advantages you just don't hear often about. The reason you don't hear about them is because it invades your privacy.

With smart meters, they can tell people when you're home, likely which holidays you observe, if you watch TV, if you work at night or day, so on and so. They sell your demographic information.

Likewise, police and other officials are now working with utility companies to determine if you are growing pot, running a business out of your garage, so on and so.

The fact they hope to reduce their billing costs associated with meters is their primary goal but the field is ripe for secondary profit avenues.

If you are against smart meters you are against industry invading your privacy and are therefore evil.

Lowest bidders (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39620941)

And where did these US corporations source all that hardware (and probably the software too)? The convient, one-stop shop of the Peoples Army, Military-Industrial Division.

Re:Lowest bidders (2, Informative)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621027)

It's not just a lowest bidder problem. The meters are designed to be tampered with [slashdot.org] . The designs were known to be defective before they were rolled out and they were deployed anyway. What is happening now is just an inevitable result of bad engineering. It's too bad that our experiences with M$ products have, for the general public, made bad engineering acceptable.

Re:Lowest bidders (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621273)

Take a look at a typical open source project or even the linux kernel if you want to see "bad engineering". You also sound like a fucking tool using a dollar sign when referring to Microsoft.

Re:Lowest bidders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621545)

Well they make some of them across the street from where I work, outside Chicago, Illinois.

Re:Lowest bidders (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621889)

Well they make some of them across the street from where I work, outside Chicago, Illinois.

OMG! The Chinese have invaded Chicago!

Maybe they can straighten out the politics there.

No fraud checking? (4, Interesting)

dj245 (732906) | more than 2 years ago | (#39620995)

Besides the fact that you don't need to mess with dangerous line-voltages, this is no different than normal meter fraud. I can't imagine anything other than incompetence being the reason this was not found. A utility buys electricity, or makes it, and the amount they put on the grid is a known quantity and easily measured. If the amount that they are billing for is less than that, something is wrong. You can do the numbers on a per-line or a per-substation basis, possibly even more granular than that. All the major HV lines and substations have their own meters which report back to HQ. A single person stealing electricity is somewhat hard to catch, but if substantial amounts of people got away with this for an extended period of time, someone was not doing their job.

Re:No fraud checking? (5, Funny)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621143)

You can do the numbers on a per-line or a per-substation basis, possibly even more granular than that.

That's brilliant! To get specific enough information for legal recourse, we'll need maximum granularity, which means tracking the usage for each customer! We can put their meter right on their house for convenience!

Re:No fraud checking? (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621561)

Or, put a meter on the pole that feeds your house, as a backup for the meter that you tampered with.

Re:No fraud checking? (4, Interesting)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621963)

They do tend to have meters per transformer ("pole pig"), which is pretty granular, as well as at other points in the distribution network. They use them to diagnose flaws in the system, but they're also used for finding fraud.

Re:No fraud checking? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621173)

Besides the fact that you don't need to mess with dangerous line-voltages, this is no different than normal meter fraud.

Except that it involves the internet somehow, and therefore it's evil.

It also seems to be much easier to mess with the so-called smart meters than the old-fashioned reliable dumb meters.

Re:No fraud checking? (1)

JaneTheIgnorantSlut (1265300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621301)

Except that it involves the internet somehow, and therefore it's patentable.

FTFY

Re:No fraud checking? (5, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621247)

A utility buys electricity, or makes it, and the amount they put on the grid is a known quantity and easily measured. If the amount that they are billing for is less than that, something is wrong.

Yes, like Ohm's law and Joule's law. Any electrical cable and transformer converts electricity into heat, so what the users pull out can never equal what is put on the grid.

Electricity is also not a resource like water, where if you don't pump it out one second, you can pump it out the next second. Use it or lose it. Converted to DC, it can be stored in capacitors or batteries, but at a very high cost.

Re:No fraud checking? (5, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621257)

Besides the fact that you don't need to mess with dangerous line-voltages, this is no different than normal meter fraud. I can't imagine anything other than incompetence being the reason this was not found. A utility buys electricity, or makes it, and the amount they put on the grid is a known quantity and easily measured. If the amount that they are billing for is less than that, something is wrong. You can do the numbers on a per-line or a per-substation basis, possibly even more granular than that. All the major HV lines and substations have their own meters which report back to HQ. A single person stealing electricity is somewhat hard to catch, but if substantial amounts of people got away with this for an extended period of time, someone was not doing their job.

But take your average mid size city, and the substations cover huge areas. HV feeders typically feed entire neighborhoods and step down to lower voltage on the neighborhood feed without any such meter. Line loss is variable, not a constant you can be assured of over time. Your mom's current frugality binge can make a significant difference in usage month to month.

So how do you find the 6 houses out of 100 that reduce their consumption by some amount less than the average variance? Especially if they ratchet it down slowly in the high use season?

And even if you statistically isolate a few suspects, how do you prove it? About the only way to do so is to put another meter upstream of each suspect house. Expensive, and not at all stealthy, so the suspect can drop the hack.

A power company in an area I lived in, where power was still distributed with overhead wires, would put the meter at the top of the off-property pole as a way of advertising people they had caught tampering with meters. The entire neighborhood knew what that meant. They could still read them remotely, so it didn't involve any additional work load on their staff once installed.

Re:No fraud checking? (1)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621315)

two problems with your accounting scheme:

a) fluctuating line losses that cannot be quantified (local temperature / weather can impact this)
b) homes that generate power and put it back on the grid

Re:No fraud checking? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621483)

Its called net metering, and the primary use is to catch people stealing. There are several power providers that use this to verify that the net sum of generated power = power sold. Given that generally they know they normal losses, the fluctuating losses are a very small percentage and there are multiple meter points, so any variation should trigger alarm bells. This has been used by utilities on larger scales to find grow-ops in BC, Canada, they look at the power flow through, and check billing info to ensure the net metered power is reasonable. Line and transformer will only account for 2% losses, from a distribution transformer. If your house is stealing 25KVA from a 50KVA transformer, there is no hiding it, but if your apartment is stealing 10KVA from a 1000kVA highrise transformer, it might be dismissed as a unmetered house load. Idealy, if you had all the meters in your area hacked, you could hide your usage in your neighbors bills, that way the power company net metering wouldn't realise and totaling errors.

Re:No fraud checking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621535)

Also what if someone else tampers with your meter without your knowledge or consent? A person wanting to steal it could just tamper with multiple meters in the neighborhood or anonymously and wirelessly cause power to go out.

Re:No fraud checking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621741)

Except you have line loss. No utility will have 100% bought = 100% billed out.

Re:No fraud checking? (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621839)

It's probably easy to find cheaters because people get greedy. Since power companies have a pretty good idea of the historic energy use for a certain location all they need to do is watch for big shifts in electricity consumption.

Re:No fraud checking? (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622503)

People smart enough to know about the hacks are usually smart enough not to run their bill down to zero.
People see their historical usage on every Electric bill, its not like they are unaware records are being kept.

Thieves just run down their usage over time by 25% of their prior usage, which is consistent with what you can accomplish by being frugal
(or going on vacation). Public awareness of shortages can drive electrical usage for an entire city down by 25% [ucdavis.edu] .

Dumb people might go for "the big hack", but these are the only ones that get caught, because simple computer programs running
against billing data make them so obvious.

Without meter-by-meter inspection, you can't tell if loss of household income (layoff) caused increased frugality or if they tampered
with the meter, as long as they keep from pushing usage down by less than 25% or so.

If you Read TFA, you will find that detection is very difficult, and these were with users that had hacked their meter in a very obvious way,
such that the"altered meter typically reduces a customer’s bill by 50 percent to 75 percent". If you can't easily spot 50% reduction, you
would have no chance of spotting a 25% reduction.

Re:No fraud checking? (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622861)

I haven't had it happen with electricity, but a couple of months after I installed a new high efficiency boiler I had an inspector from the natural gas utility come out to find out why my bill was suddenly so much lower.

If it will "cost companies more"... (2)

whovian (107062) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621051)

...it will likely cost consumers more, i.e, the cost will be passed on to the consumer. I am completely unsurprised to hear of this.

Negative energy use? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621059)

I pay a fixed amount every month, and then at the end of the year, I either have to pay more or get a rebate. Do you think that the public utility's billing software is smart enough to notice that my rebate is bigger than what I paid?

Probably not.

Business model (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621091)

So the power company says "I know, let's make a bunch of money by using smart meters. That way we can fire all the people we used to send out to go read meters, and we can maximize our profits by having variable billing throughout the day."

"Oh, and let's make sure to contract these meters out to the lowest bidder because after all, people are morons and if they don't realize that we're shafting them by getting them to pay more for their electricity, certainly they will never be smart enough to figure out our meters"

"Oh shit, our meters can be hacked! These guys are CRIMINALS help help government HELP come save us!". That way we don't have to invest in more secure meters, or go back to the old meters. No, we can continue with minimal staff, continue with crappy hackable meters, and stick the cost of our broken business model to the government, the court system, and of course the prison system. Why should we have to share any of these unforseen costs from a business model we forgot to think through properly? Maximum profit is our GOD GIVEN RIGHT.

Re:Business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621141)

No, they still need someone to read the meter at close proximity in most cases. Not all of them call home, you need to at least drive by the home to get the read in some cases, just don't make shit up. I do have to laugh, I've interviewed for jobs designing this sort of thing and what a bunch of pompous asses GE and the like are when it comes to this.

Re:Business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621217)

If you have these guys, they all call home.

http://www.silverspringnet.com/

Now you can hack PG&E from the comfort of a non-extradition country.

Re:Business model (2)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621145)

My power company is run by the government.

BC Hydro. They just started rolling out these smart meters. They're pointless. If they'd gone with something like a Schneider Ion then they could figure out how to reduce energy consumption in the home. As it is, they can't even get billing and metering to talk to each other.

And there's been a recall already.

Re:Business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621215)

You too, eh? Quebec is the same. Almost as if there's some kind of collusion going on with companies that make meters. Nah.

Re:Business model (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621439)

When I hear "BC Hydro", I don't think of electricity.

Re:Business model (1)

an unsound mind (1419599) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622053)

"Hydro" is common slang for "Hydroelectric power".

Re:Business model (1)

Jessified (1150003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621919)

I'm a BC resident too. I already forwarded this on to the Province (our low-brow tabloid-ish 'newspaper').

Re:Business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621267)

you save money by not getting a yearly bill, but doing basic math isn't a GOD GIVEN RIGHT to americans...

Re:Business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621285)

Are you sure this is about the power company 'business model'? I'm not convinced the power companies were all that interested in deploying smart meters in the first place. Aren't they being pressured to do this by governments with green energy policies?

"I know, lets control everyone's power remotely, so we can turn off their stuff and Save The Planet. Also, we can collect detailed information on personal behavior and create new ways to penalize non-conformance. We'll get a free pass even from people that normally care about their privacy and liberty because its FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!"

Re:Business model (3, Informative)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621533)

The primary purpose is to provide an incentive for customers to shift energy use to non-peak hours. By doing that the peak load is reduced, which is a big cost saver for the utilities (less total generation and transmission capacity required).

Re:Business model (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621761)

The primary purpose is to provide an incentive for customers to shift energy use to non-peak hours. By doing that the peak load is reduced, which is a big cost saver for the utilities (less total generation and transmission capacity required).

Well, easy enough then; it's not as if most people's schedules are determined by outlying factors or anything... /sarc

That's some serious mental gymnastics they must do if they honestly believe such nonsense. How am I or anyone else supposed to "shift energy use to non-peak hours" when our working schedules are determined by our employers? Surely the people running these utilities (who, consequently, tend to work 8-5 jobs as well) aren't so dumb as to think that's a viable strategy, are they?

Re:Business model (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621997)

How am I or anyone else supposed to "shift energy use to non-peak hours" when our working schedules are determined by our employers?

For somebody with "Do It Yourself' in your nic, you seem kinda stuck.

May I introduce you to the concept of a timer? Something that might turn your hot water heater or your clothes dryer on at night? Although not common as of yet, you can likely see that such a technology isn't exactly cutting edge. It would not be difficult to design newer clothes dryers and dishwashers to go on at night when the power is cheaper. One could even cobble up an aftermarket gizmo to do that. Obviously won't work for everything in the house, but even a 10% reduction in peak load is a considerable savings to a power company.

Re:Business model (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622181)

May I introduce you to the concept of a timer? Something that might turn your hot water heater or your clothes dryer on at night?

Words of someone who has never awakened in a house set ablaze by a dryer fire.

It would not be difficult to design newer clothes dryers and dishwashers to go on at night when the power is cheaper. One could even cobble up an aftermarket gizmo to do that. Obviously won't work for everything in the house, but even a 10% reduction in peak load is a considerable savings to a power company.

Since when is it my responsibility, as the customer, to spend my money and time making devices that save the power company money?

For somebody with "Do It Yourself' in your nic, you seem kinda stuck.

Or, I'm not sucker. DIY is for my benefit, not that of the utility company.

Re:Business model (1)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622371)

Since when is it my responsibility, as the customer, to spend my money and time making devices that save the power company money?

It's not.

On the other hand, you can't bitch about it when you're charged more for usage that costs the power company more money.

Or did you think that it was the responsibility of the people who use cheap, off-peak power to subsidize your lifestyle?

Re:Business model (2)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622471)

In man places, the dryer and water heater are gas-powered, and and so don't really come into the picture. A (reasonably modern) water heater uses very little power "at idle", and most of its power bringing the tank back up to temp right after you use hot water, so there's very little savings in turning off the heater on a timer. If you actually care about the small amount of power your water heater uses, switch to (reasonably modern) flash heaters.

The main thing with the dryer is not to run it during peak AC load time - you don't need to wait till you're asleep.

In the South, putting your AC on a timer (or just manually adjusting it before leaving fo work) is all that really matters.

Re:Business model (1)

onkelonkel (560274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622135)

Herp Derp. They are making appliances with timers now. I can tell my dishwasher to run in the middle of the night.

Re:Business model (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622255)

Herp Derp. They are making appliances with timers now. I can tell my dishwasher to run in the middle of the night.

So, the dishwasher is the only appliance you run when you're off work? no TV, laptop, light bulbs, gaming console, radio, etc., etc. etc.? Why not put them on all timers to run during "off-peak" hours; I mean, if you're going to put that much effort into saving the power company money, why not go full bore?

Oh, and never mind the fact that if enough people move their power usage to "off-peak hours," those hours are no longer off-peak.

"Herp Derp" indeed.

Re:Business model (1)

DamonHD (794830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623341)

Cheapest in terms of utility costs and thus also to you would be a flat demand 'curve', and once that was achieved then great, your work is done, but loads continue to need to be run at these new times to maintain that flat line.

However, with intermittent renewables being added to the grid another GoodThing(TM) is to match consumption to available generation.

In fact I try to shift big loads (washing machine and dishwasher) to periods where the CO2 emitted per kWh (carbon intensity) is as low as possible, in the wee hours and/or when wind generation is particularly high, see my live chart: http://www.earth.org.uk/_gridCarbonIntensityGB.html [earth.org.uk]

I have also arranged to work from home much of the time, so I *can* organise when I do things, and certainly don't have to do a 9--5 bracketed by commutes each working day.

Rgds

Damon

Re:Business model (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621435)

In your rant about the government, you neglected to remember (or maybe just didn't know) that meter fraud [wikipedia.org] has ALWAYS happened, and ALWAYS been illegal. The government already prosecutes people for theft of service [wikipedia.org] .

In fact, smarter meters are harder to trick, so it's likely that these smart meters have LESS fraud.

Given your rant about the "maximizing profits" by variable rate billing, I can safely assume you don't know the first thing about the electrical system in this country. It may feel very truthy that they're screwing you over, but read up on it sometime.

Re:Business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621773)

Paid xyz price before smart meters, after smart meters it nearly doubled. Same with the smart meters for water. Just want to make more $$

Re:Business model (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622009)

Paid xyz price before smart meters, after smart meters it nearly doubled. Same with the smart meters for water. Just want to make more $$

Complaining that they caught your basement pot farm, are you? Sad Panda!

Re:Business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39622163)

Yeah he'd really be on the internet posting about it.

Re:Business model (1)

White Yeti (927387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623015)

My utility sent out info about their on-going switch to smart meters. They'll save money by not having meter readers driving to each home! Yay! There's also a new line item on the monthly bill: Smart meter. They didn't say *I* would save money, after all. Plus I don't yet have a smart meter.

Re:Business model (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39622093)

OMG ths is nt twitter, u r nt lmtd to 140 chars. Pls use full sentences. 2 hrd 2 rd! ^^

Re:Business model (1)

NewWorldDan (899800) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621777)

If someone is tampering with their meter, they are a criminal and should be prosecuted. Everyone who tampers with their meter raises the rates for honest customers, like me. Most utilities are natural monopolies and their pricing is tightly regulated. Yes, whoever built meters that are so easily tampered with should be sued out of existance as well.

Lastly, having pricing that more accurately reflects the cost of the power supplied potentially creates more efficient usage. While some power plants can be spun up and down very easily, others (like nuclear) have a fairly static output. So if you can shift some things from high demand times to low demand times, power becomes cheaper for everyone. I run my dishwasher in the middle of the night (it has a delayed start option, so I can set it and forget it). For responsible people, this is a win all around.

Re:Business model (1)

Jessified (1150003) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621895)

so much win.

Obviously. (4, Insightful)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621161)

The problems started when we deregulated this industry. The smart meter debacle is just another symptom of a system that is rotten to the core. Where I live, power rates were heavily affected by the Enron fueled energy crisis and the rates have scarcely dropped since they were artificially driven up. Year after year the power company has been asking for $0.20 rate hikes because they know they can talk the PUC into giving them at least half of what they want. All the while claiming to be losing money while the parent company of the utility is making record profits.

If the Utilities were regulated then they might have to spend a little more on the secure tech instead of the cheapest crap available. They would have a more vested interest in it since their single motivating factor is to provide service instead of to make as much money as possible.

Re:Obviously. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621277)

If they are deregulated, why do they have to go to the PUC for rate hikes?
Why does it matter if the parent company is making record profits if the utility itself is losing money? (Or, why should the parent company have to spend its profits from other ventures in order to deliver electricity to you?)
Why in the world do you think "providing service" is more of a motivating factor than money? If it was, none of these things would be an issue now...

Re:Obviously. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621303)

Bullshit.

The CA PUC is one of the most entrenched regulatory institutions in the whole US. All they do is run interference for PG&E while they screw us with their self-serving smart meters.

PG&E blows up a bay area neighborhood? No problem. CPUC has their back again and let's PG&E hike their rates to pay for their own negligence.

Getting a paycheck from a government entity doesn't magically turn you into a saint.

Re:Obviously. (1)

morari (1080535) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621503)

The main problem is that utility companies are for-profit. Your electricity should not be run by a for-profit organization, period. My water isn't for-profit, nor are my recycling services. For some reason though, the power companies are allowed to deny access to alternate generation and distribution centers, provide the most piss-poor service possible, and still raise rates year after year. It's easily one of the most crooked industries in the country.

Re:Obviously. (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621857)

This was the point I was more or less trying to make, thanks for clarifying. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

Re:Obviously. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621941)

The main problem is that utility companies are for-profit. Your electricity should not be run by a for-profit organization, period

Not this. Not this at all.

Oddly, Texas is doing it correctly. I was able to choose who provides my electricity. The rates are competitive. If I wish to get my power generated from windmills, or solar, or magical rainbow farting unicorns, I could simply pay a different provider. They have a handy website [powertochoose.org] too.

Re:Obviously. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621549)

The obvious upside is that this will only make alternative energy sources more appealing and affordable. Eventually their greed could spark an alternative energy revolution in your neighborhood.

The "other" hacking? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621183)

What about thieves who regularly intercept wireless signals from the meters to determine occupancy patterns, then come back and break in when no one's home?

Do these meters have end-to-end encryption? Inquiring minds want to know.

captcha: quality

Re:The "other" hacking? (3, Informative)

jessehager (713802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621979)

Saw this gizmo earlier today: http://www.gridinsight.com/ [gridinsight.com]

Since anyone can buy a receiver to read their own meters, I'm going to say "probably not."

Re:The "other" hacking? (1, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622043)

What about thieves who regularly intercept wireless signals from the meters to determine occupancy patterns, then come back and break in when no one's home?

Do these meters have end-to-end encryption?

Just take one of your spare tin foil hats and wrap it around the meter. That way the black helicopters can't sneak up on you.

Re:The "other" hacking? (2)

onkelonkel (560274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622205)

Holy cow! I am aghast with shock and alarm! I will panic soonest!

Around here thieves will look to see if any cars are in the driveway, and then ring the doorbell to see if anybody is home.

Re:The "other" hacking? (2)

lordmage (124376) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622639)

That is SOOO ancient. Around here they have these heat detecting scanners that the thieves use to detect any body heat inside before they then use the nifty "Super Steel Toed boots 2000" to break in.

GOOD, they deserve the loss. ... grrr. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621205)

They can randomly jack up the price from 4 cents a KW/h to 18 cents .. whenever they feel like it.
They usually do it during holidays when everyone's home etc or during the winter. It has nothing
to do with supply and demand and everything to do with screwing customers.

Re:GOOD, they deserve the loss. ... grrr. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621281)

They can randomly jack up the price from 4 cents a KW/h to 18 cents .. whenever they feel like it.
They usually do it during holidays when everyone's home etc or during the winter. It has nothing
to do with supply and demand
and everything to do with screwing customers.

I see you aren't familiar with the concept of supply and demand.

Re:GOOD, they deserve the loss. ... grrr. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621853)

Uhh, except that it's a regulated market. "supply side economics" only occurs in relatively unregulated economies. This is a heavily regulated utility.

Re:GOOD, they deserve the loss. ... grrr. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621929)

They usually do it during holidays when everyone's home etc or during the winter. It has nothing
to do with supply and demand and everything to do with screwing customers.

Oh, but for a "-1 Stupid" moderation option...

Not really suprised. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621249)

Wasn't this pointed out years ago, that the new "smart meter" networks had essentially zero security?

I guess outfitting millions of nodes with devices and infrastructure that supported a legitimate security model was cost prohibitive.
To do it properly I'd assume you'd need some sort of verifiable trusts, certificates for each node, a data center to manage all that. God. What a nightmare that would be. Imagine trying to meter a device that fell off the network because it missed a cert renewal, or someone forgetting that their CA certs expired and they did not update all the smart meter's credentials, causing massive system wide falloff.

I bet it would be more expensive than the costs saved from remote meter reading.

Beyond that, does anyone else buy this nonsense about "smart power?" The idea that individual appliances will be somehow managed by the power company according to current power demand. The idea is that you can run devices at off-peak hours to save money. I'm not seeing many practical applications for this. Load your dishwasher and run it at night? Same for washing machine and dryer? It would have to be a LOT cheaper to justify the loss of convenience. As far as I know the real big draws are heating and cooling.. Demands that are fixed because of seasonal and day/night cycles. Perhaps if we all had plug-in electric cars or hybrids.

Re:Not really suprised. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621735)

Given how many dishwashers catch fire and burn peoples homes down.

It's not a smart idea to run them while you sleep.

Smart meters need to be hardcoded (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621261)

Why is this so hard? Set the whole thing up with ROM that the unit cannot change on it's own. If a hacker manually hacks their unit that is one thing but it's a really bad idea if people can "update" the firmware of the meters remotely with foreign code. Assuming they really like that idea, every unit needs a unique authentication code. By all means, have that code be centrally stored or and summoned automatically by the utility database. But compromising one unit shouldn't lead to them all being compromised. The whole thing has to be compartmentalized.

Re:Smart meters need to be hardcoded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621371)

And how does the cost of this security compare with the revenues lost to hacking?

Re:Smart meters need to be hardcoded (1)

azadrozny (576352) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622035)

The hackers are getting in through an optical admin/maintenance port on the meter. I doubt that the property owner was ever meant to use it. I too am shocked that it does not (appear to) have any authentication for a connection. I don't know how these meters phone home, but it must be fast enough to authenticate a user.

+1 to FA for covert Dilbert quote (2)

khendron (225184) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621291)

"...paradigm shifting without a clutch"

I always liked that quote. Too bad the FA article felt the need to [edit] it.

Balance (1)

gQuigs (913879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39621425)

Obviously, this is not a good development. I also don't see this being that difficult for the utilities to detect through other means.

But the bigger question is control and oversight of these devices by the homeowners themselves. Homeowners should be allowed to directly access the data on their smart meter. It can be very advantageous to the homeowner to know when there power usage peaks among other items.

Smart meters will eventually have more control of turning off devices in the home. Homeowners need to be firmly in control of that kind of functionality. At the same time, utilities need to be able to verify the homeowner really is using what they expect.

Turn About (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39621813)

Abuse of personal information by utility companies may have cost Americans Billions anually

Public already percives these as unreliable (2)

linebackn (131821) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622207)

Where I live, these smart meters are already viewed as unreliable by the general public. The local news has reported numerous stories about how people's water bills suddenly went up after these new "smart" meters were installed.

The thing is, there is no way for the general public to verify how accurate or reliable these meters are.

Ideally these should be extremely simple, easily auditable, devices. But I can imagine the specs for something like this growing until it can send e-mail... using a database... and object orientation... and XML... on the web... in Microsoft .NET... now with HTML 5... and so on.

What's the difference (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39622833)

between this and old school wiring of a meter to run backwards?
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