Your smart meter could be hacked, your energy held to ransom, its usage monitored to determine the best time to rob your house, or even used by advertisers to determine your favourite TV show.
Director of the Centre for Internet Safety at the University of Canberra Nigel Phair has warned Australian consumers aren’t aware of the risks associated with their smart meters.
There are two types of smart meters, ‘one-way’ or ‘two-way’ meters: one way meters simply transmit data back to utility companies.
Two-way meters can be updated to inform savvy consumers on fee changes or allow power companies to cut services at a moment’s notice.
Mr Phair said two-way meters had less secure data connections, allowing would-be criminals to hack in.
ActewAGL said there were 3225 two-way smart meters in the ACT, representing 1.7 per cent of meters in the capital.
Mr Phair said there were no Australian or global standards on security and privacy regarding smart meters and called for more stringent digital security standards.
“They’re vulnerable to cyber attacks back into the home because it can receive data over the internet,” Mr Phair said.
“The reason electricity companies want this is because they can turn it off when you don’t pay your bill.”
Mr Phair said hackers could potentially cut power then demand money from households before reactivating it, or use it to determine when no one was home before breaking in.
Mr Phair’s report Smart Meters: What does a connected house really mean? cited a case in Puerto Rico where hackers offered households lower power bills.
For fees ranging up to $US1000, hackers reprogrammed two-way smart meters remotely to reduce monthly power bills by 75 per cent, costing power bodies in Puerto Rico nearly $US400 million.
The report pointed to malware software capable of infecting two-way meters before leaping to nearby meters, potentially shutting down entire neighbourhoods.
“We should only roll out one-way meters in the first instance, until we work out the security and privacy issues of two-ways meters,” Mr Phair said.
“Essentially, one-way radio transmission is more secure for the customer.”
A scathing 2015 report by the Victorian Auditor-General found two-way meters had delivered no cost benefits to Victorian households.
While Mr Phair said the meters allowed consumers to actively monitor and analyse their usage, but most were unaware how.
Mr Phair added smart meter readings also had potential for advertisers.
German researchers eavesdropping on household energy outputs determined the type of TV and the show people were watching by the energy required to light the screen.
It required previous understanding of what energy patterns programs created but Mr Phair said the data could be sold to advertisers, raising privacy concerns.
He said the energy data could be matched with people’s social media use.
A report from the Australian Energy Market Commission last year set new rules in place to improve security and privacy standards on smart meters.