Hackers make strong security systems ‘critical’ for smart homes and meters

It is “critical” that the security systems behind the ever-growing number of smart homes cannot be hacked into, experts have warned.

If systems such as smart meters aren’t developed with robust security backing them, then they will be at risk from hackers.

The warning comes as the UK begins to roll out smart electricity and gas meters to pilot cities in the country.

“There’s two things: there’s hacking into them from the consumer’s point of view, which is a nuisance and painful and not very good, then there is hacking into them from the system point of view,” said Derek Roddy, from Climote,

“You can’t have someone hacking into a system and shutting down London, for instance. If you get it wrong and you get into this space that is what actually happens.”

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Roddy has helped to develop a smart thermostat that has deployed in thousands of homes in Ireland and is also working with utility suppliers to enhance energy collection from the grid.

He said that the overall development of large-scale systems that connect to the grid is the best way to save energy. However, he said that for this to work the databases behind the systems must be secure.

“Switching on and off 20,000 immersion heaters will shut down a local transformer instantly. You can’t have that.

“That has to be built in with the partnership with a good operator.”

Matt Pfeil from DataStax, which creates many of the databases behind Internet of Things devices and services such as Netflix and Spotify, said that consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of the databases behind their devices.

“As this rise of data has occurred, there’s more databases than ever before, so your data has got to be encrypted,” he said.

“It almost seems like weekly or monthly now that we see there’s a large data breach at some major manufacturer.”

climote - Controller LHS (hand on wheel)

Pfeil continued to say that the importance of tech companies protecting their systems will be more prevalent as their customers realise who they can and can’t trust. In this respect, he said, Datastax’s systems encrypt the data and have authentication methods to ensure it is only accessible to those who are allowed access to it.

“I think people in the past just assumed that their data was safe. Mainly because computers are complicated things so the general public doesn’t necessarily understand how they work.

“As this stuff [hacks] happens more, I don’t think consumers are going to press everyone equally.

“I think it will be an opportunity for the companies to showcase their advantage but really knowing how they handle this very sensitive data in a secure manner.”

This was backed up by Roddy who said that to help convince and prove that the systems were secure Climote has employed staff who have previously worked in banking security. “It is critical to this being done right,” he said.

The security also comes back to the ability of the devices.

“You have got to assume that on all these systems that if they are attacked and broken into and someone tries to do something, then you have built in the security and the capability in the devices themselves to be clever. So that is really the level of detail that we are working at.

“You have got to try and build in that they’re smart themselves. So, for example, if our devices received 2,000 messages all to turn on at once, don’t do it. So they can’t actually do it. That’s the kind of security levels we’re working at now.”


Image three courtesy of Climote


 

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