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Metering minefield

If utilities don’t lock crime out of smart metering and smart grids, they could shatter already-fragile consumer trust, says Nicholas Chrysanthou.

Smart meters, and then smart grids, have the potential to deliver a host of benefits. But they will also ramp up the data security challenges utilities face and open the door to new crimes.

Of particular concern are: smart meter interactivity, which leaves them vulnerable to attack; an increase in the amount of data held about customers; distributed connectivity, with millions of smart devices linked to public networks creating potentially vulnerable points of attack; and a lack of security standards. As one-way power grids become bi-directional, companies will also face issues around privacy, fraud, customer accounts, network interference and remote disconnection.

Even if customer information will be held by a single data communications company that will pass it on to the utilities, it does not take much imagination to see that getting data and infrastructure security wrong could have a substantial impact on a company’s reputation. PA Consulting energy expert Marc Tritschler says there will be many parties “that will have access to customer information that will not be familiar with handling this data and the protection that applies to it … already public perception of utilities is not very good, so to add in data mismanagement will further destroy what trust the public still has”.

Nicholas Chrysanthou is an energy consultant analyst at Alva. Read the full article on Utility Week or find out more about the Alva Reputation Index.

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