Smart Meters Invite Hacking By Terrorists

Revised 6 December 2015

In December 2014, a large group of APS customers protested to the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) about the adverse health effects of microwave radiation from so-called “Smart Meters”, but I believe that there is an even more serious danger from those meters: hacking by terrorists.  (There are also privacy concerns.)

These meters operate in an open wireless network in which each meter sends and receives signals with APS.  As a result, each meter can be hacked individually as can the entire network of meters without making any physical connections.  As we know from our experience with computers and wireless routers, passwords and encryption cannot provide complete protection.  An individual customer can hack his own meter to reduce his electric bill, but a sophisticated hacker can disconnect an entire neighborhood (or more) from power.  In an article from Maxim Integrated [Electronic] Products in February 2013, David Andeen wrote that “A former utility employee recently asked me, ‘If we network all of the electricity meters and grid infrastructure, can someone write a computer virus and take down the entire grid?’ Unfortunately, my answer was yes.”  See http://www.maximintegrated.com/en/app-notes/index.mvp/id/5537.  (To appreciate the extent of such hacking, just Google “hacking a smart meter”.)

So far, Smart Meters have not been shown to benefit customers in any way; they benefit only APS and other utilities by saving money on meter reading while the huge costs of Smart Meters increase their rate base upon which they get a guaranteed return on investment.  APS claim customer benefits, but the data available are at least 24 hours old and lack detailed time information.  The only “benefit” APS can assert is customer entertainment from colorful graphics that lack any practical use or value.

On the other hand, they do provide an invitation to terrorists to deprive entire cities of electrical power without using explosives or other destructive means.  Note that the old fashioned mechanical analog meters are 100 percent immune to wireless attacks.  Millions of smart meters provide easy access to countless vulnerable network points with much less cyber security than a power plant and comparatively little physical security.  It is time to end the use of these dangerous meters before the first terrorist strikes; the danger of massive power outages and potential health problems clearly outweigh any alleged benefit.

Here is part of an interview with former CIA Director James Woolsey  [courtesy of YouTube from 2011]

Q: Are you saying also on a federal level there is no one in charge of cyber security, policy and defense.  A: There is no one in charge of security for the grid, whether its cyber or transformers or whatever.  You can search forever thru the Federal Code to try to find who that person might be.

Q: You think it should be the President?  A: Well I think it’s — there is a very good reason for it perhaps to be the Chairman of the, of FERC.  Or, but to try out to see what would work, I think having the Defense Department work with the local utility is the best.

    [A, cont’d] What they’re doing now, they’re constructing what they call a smart grid and they’re going to make it easier for you and me to call our homes on our cell phone and turn down our air conditioning on a hot afternoon if we’re not there.  Great!  *** But that may well mean that a hacker in Shanghai with his cell phone can do the same thing or worse.  And, a so-called smart grid that is as vulnerable as what we’ve got is not smart at all.  It’s a really, really stupid grid.

As a speaker said near the end of Black Hat meeting in Europe in 2014:

“You want to shut down a whole neighborhood? Or even a little more? Sure! Just start to ping MACs for a while to check who is around, then send the proper command! And you don’t really need to be even close to the meters, you just need a power plug!” (MAC = media access control address, unique for each network device.)

Yes it is a “really stupid grid”, and very dangerous as well.

To deal with vulnerabilities of Smart meters to hacking, Congressman Donald Norcross (R-NJ) introduced an amendment to HR8 in December 2015 and made the following remarks:

“Our society has become so reliant on the very electricity that we are standing under today that those who would do damage to our country might have a vulnerability here. And we need to act before they do. This is why I bring this amendment forward. I started out as an electrician many years ago, so I understand the power side of it. I sit on the Emerging Threats Subcommittee. I hear those threats each and every day. We have to make sure that we keep our homes, our businesses, and, most importantly, our military safe. We are talking about damaged equipment and potentially massive blackouts, not just like the ones we had in New York almost a decade ago but potentially taking down our entire grid. Smart meters are now part of the fabric of what we do day in and day out. This amendment very carefully identifies those vulnerabilities. I would urge members to support this.”

Moving briefly to health concerns, it seems that about three to five percent of people are susceptible to physical injury from the microwave radiation from smart meters.  In my small neighborhood of about 1500 people in about 900 single homes, up to 75 people could be sickened by those meters.  And having your smart meter replaced is only part of the solution; you remain surrounded by other homes with these radiating meters, so it is essential that at least your nearby neighbors have their smart meters replaced by analog meters.

I found the following report about judicial proceedings in Maine relating to health problems on the StopSmartMeters.org website:

1. Maine Supreme Court Justices Grill Utility Advocates As part of a potentially precedent-setting court case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court over the health and safety of smart meters, on November 3rd justices heard an appeal of a previous ruling that smart meters were essentially “safe enough.”   ***  Attorney Bruce McGlauflin represented lead plaintiff Ed Friedman of Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters in the Maine Supreme Court, and presented evidence from physicians, microbiologists, and other professionals that radiation emitted by smart meters poses a serious risk of physical harm, and should be recalled.

Finally, let’s realize that smart meters can be used to invade your privacy; in simple terms, they are computerized surveillance devices. The existing Elster meters transmit your personal usage information every few minutes, and the coming and more powerful Landis and Gyr meters do so at least every minute. That is much more than is necessary to measure your usage of electrical energy, and is frequent enough for each appliance that you are using at a given time to produce a “signature” that a computer can identify. The same computer can also determine when you are at home and can estimate the number of people living in your house.

What is worse, there are commercial enterprises that are now willing to pay APS for these data about you and your family. Yet, the smart meter does nothing at all for you; it is all detriment and no benefit.

The ACC recently cancelled charges that APS may impose on customers who wish to return to their mechanical analog meters: a $50.00 installation charge and a $5.00 monthly meter reading charge.  Right now, you can have your smart meter replaced with an analog meter for no charge at all, and your analog meter will also be read at no (additional) charge, at least until the next APS rate case in mid-2016.   It’s time for everyone who wants to avoid a blackout caused by terrorists or nasty neighbors to get rid of his or her smart meter now!