The industry has countered media claims that smart meters will leave homes vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Intelligence agency GCHQ has warned ministers smart meters could enable hackers to steal personal details and defraud consumers by tampering with their bills, according to reports in the national press.

But Robert Cheesewright, director of policy and communications at Smart Energy GB said in response: “Smart meters are one of the safest and most secure pieces of technology in your home. The system was designed with security at its heart.”

Fears were raised that the rise of the “smart home”, whereby gadgets around the home communicate with one another, could potentially give hackers the ability to steal personal information that could be sold on to other criminals.

Cheesewright added: “Only energy data is stored on a meter and this is encrypted. Your name, address, bank account or other financial details are not stored on the meter.”

It was also claimed cyber criminals could artificially inflate meter readings, making bills higher, before intercepting payments, and skimming off the difference between the real reading and the false reading, so energy companies don’t see the difference.

Wireless technology expert Nick Hunn, of London-based firm WiFore, believes criminals have the capability to break into “smart” software with bugs that could then send their own signals.

The technology strategist said: “Smart meter technology has created a Trojan horse. My understanding is that the British spy agency GCHQ were not best pleased when it realised how insecure these devices could be and it is still not happy. That is why it has taken so long to release the new SMETS 2 models.”

The second generation (SMETS 2) models are designed to be interoperable and enable users to easily switch supplier, which Daniel Miessler, director at cyber security firm IOActive and author of the book The Real Internet of Things, said might only exacerbate the problem: “As the smart meter advances, the security risks go up as hackers realise the potential returns are greater. Ensuring different suppliers can use the same meter technology adds to this vulnerability and experts need time to address this.”

But he also added: “Let us not get carried away – these meters can do real good and will hopefully stay safe.”

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