Hacking and wardriving the great freeze

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Smart meters used by Austin Energy and other power companies throughout Texas quietly emit data that shows how long businesses and residences have gone since their last power outage.

The value of that data point is rapidly diminishing as other localized outages occur. My entire neighborhood only lost power briefly during the onset of the storm but otherwise stayed up (I have no idea why - no hospital or emergency services immediately proximate), however there has since been at least one thunderstorm-related outage and the local transmission operator has been replacing transformers thus all uptime values have again been reset since the storm.

It does however more broadly point to problems with using wireless as the data transmission method of choice for meters - it’s an inherent and large attack surface relative to using a wire. And like all things widely deployed at a cost, weaknesses will invariably be discovered or the march of time and technology will reveal attacks that are relatively easy to execute.

Continuing his work, Hash is now analyzing the smart meter mechanism responsible for remotely disconnecting a home’s power. If vulnerable, Hash warns, such a discovery in the wrong hands could potentially lead to devastating outcomes similar to those seen during the snowstorm.

Remote service disconnects are a common - but not necessarily ubiquitous - feature of smart meters.

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