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Smart meter sending data to OVO - Is it safe, secure and private?

  • 25 September 2017
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If a smart meter sends details via the mobile phone network every 30 minutes, that's a lot of phone calls. Who pays for those calls? Is the cost added to my energy bill? Does OVO absorb the cost of calls? Is the transmitted data safe from eavesdroppers? Safe from hackers?
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Best answer by Lucy_OVO 27 September 2017, 18:15

If a smart meter sends details via the mobile phone network every 30 minutes, that's a lot of phone calls. Who pays for those calls? Is the cost added to my energy bill? Does OVO absorb the cost of calls? Is the transmitted data safe from eavesdroppers? Safe from hackers?

Hey Stewart7,

More information on this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/smart-meters-radio-waves-and-health/smart-meters-radio-waves-and-health. For further information on the safety of smart meters, check out this Gov article here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/smart-meters-how-they-work.

Hope this helps,
Lucy
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If a smart meter sends details via the mobile phone network every 30 minutes, that's a lot of phone calls. Who pays for those calls? Is the cost added to my energy bill? Does OVO absorb the cost of calls? Is the transmitted data safe from eavesdroppers? Safe from hackers?

Hey Stewart7,

More information on this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/smart-meters-radio-waves-and-health/smart-meters-radio-waves-and-health. For further information on the safety of smart meters, check out this Gov article here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/smart-meters-how-they-work.

Hope this helps,
Lucy
Hi Lucy
Thanks for your reply, but I'm afraid your statement "We’ll remotely connect to the meter via computer software" is a bit vague. Can you be more precise? Be as technical as you wish.
The reason I ask is because as well as the security aspect, I've also read that some users in America are fitting metal screens around their meters to stop them transmitting usage data by radio.
Can you please explain exactly how my usage data would find its way to Ovo.
Thank you
Stewart
Hi Lucy
I checked out the article you sent a link to above, after following several more links from there, I eventually came to this. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/smart-meters-radio-waves-and-health/smart-meters-radio-waves-and-health
This told me that the meters communicate by radio.
So you have answered my question.
Thank you
Stewart7
Looking down other threads I understand the smart meter is using some sort of internet or wired capability to transfer meter data to your hub servers and data loggers. What sort of personal information is stored on the smart meter or accessible via the smart meter, either from my OVO account or other home network.
What protection does the smart meter have for being hacked or invaded by malware, viruses and the like. e.g. if anything like the recent WannaCry virus materialises, how is my data and my smart meter protected?
What is the risk that my home network can be infected or hacked? Does this increase if I am using for example Powerline adaptors (the house electrical power circuits)as part of my home network)... is there any possible connection (therefore risk) getting into my home network from the Smart meter side / external network connection?
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Hi Lucy
I checked out the article you sent a link to above, after following several more links from there, I eventually came to this. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/smart-meters-radio-waves-and-health/smart-meters-radio-waves-and-health
This told me that the meters communicate by radio.
So you have answered my question.
Thank you
Stewart7


Hey Stewart7,

I’ve checked this with the team and this is right. I’ve updated my initial answer with more accurate information.

Hope this helps,
Lucy
Hi Lucy
Thank you for that.
S.
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Looking down other threads I understand the smart meter is using some sort of internet or wired capability to transfer meter data to your hub servers and data loggers. What sort of personal information is stored on the smart meter or accessible via the smart meter, either from my OVO account or other home network.
What protection does the smart meter have for being hacked or invaded by malware, viruses and the like. e.g. if anything like the recent WannaCry virus materialises, how is my data and my smart meter protected?
What is the risk that my home network can be infected or hacked? Does this increase if I am using for example Powerline adaptors (the house electrical power circuits)as part of my home network)... is there any possible connection (therefore risk) getting into my home network from the Smart meter side / external network connection?


Here's OVO's stance on smart meter security @Prof:

Is my data safe?

Yes. We use encryption, controlled access and other security, including ways agreed with the government, to make sure the information transmitted from your smart meter is always secure. There are strict new regulations and codes of practice, governed by Ofgem, to keep mart meter data private and safe, and all your personal data is safeguarded by the Data Protection Act.

Your smart meter uses its own secure, wireless network, known as a home area network (HAN), that works in the same way as other wireless systems in your home. It then uses a wide area network (WAN) to send the data to your energy supplier. This works in the same way your mobile phone sends and receives information.

The link with this info on is here: https://www.ovoenergy.com/ovo-answers/topics/smart-technology/smart-meters/are-smart-meters-safe.html.


What do you think?

Tim
Thank you Tim_OVO; I feel better protected, with the encryption on any data that might be traceable to me and my home; and because you are not accessing my home LAN or Wifi.
Tim_OVO's comments above seem to suggest that a smart meter needs some sort of home network to send data back to Ovo, but what if a household is completely without any sort of computing ability, no PC, lap-top, tablet, smart TV, or no smart anything and no wi-fi.
How does the meter send its data then?

Sorry if I've got hold of the wrong end of the stick, somebody please enlighten an old duffer.

Thanks
Stewart7
Sorry all
The old duffer now has the definitive by following the link given above by prof.
I.E. https://www.ovoenergy.com/ovo-answers/topics/smart-technology/smart-meters/are-smart-meters-safe.html.
So it seems they use the mobile phone network to send their data.

Thanks to all
S7
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what data are you worried about being found? simply owning a mobile telephone will give more detail about your life than anything else!

Smart energy meters just monitor your energy, I've heard the reason, oh but they can tell when i'm in, well they would target your phone for that, or you could use the timer feature on your washing machine to come on when your not home to spoof the system that your in.... but seriously what is the implications if someone did get your energy consumption details?


Seriously, what is the risk of security with a smart meter? from my understanding of talking to the people who wrote the software for them, at least for the first gen is that it purely transmits meter readings.

From my point of view if I wanted it means I can check and see if someone is plugging a car in my charger as I know when I'm in/out! if anything it give me greater security about my energy.
I'm only worried because I was initially told that the mobile phone network was used to send the data every 30 minutes and someone would have to pay for these calls. This turns out to be wrong. I also thought this might be another way for someone to access private info and the less private info sent out the better. After all, the meter will not only send energy consumption details, it must also send something to identify which household the data is coming from and I think this is just another bit of info that is 'out there'.
On another tack, while I am still able to note my meter readings and enter them onto OVO's website, I don't need a smart meter. I don't waste electricity or gas, and I only use what I have to.
Thirdly, I would never have a smart meter until someone assured me that the meter fitted would still operate if I changed energy supplier.
I have been deliberately putting off having a smart meter installed because I have read various stories and news items about how they can be used to snoop, pry and gather other details about you and your consumer habits, and even put you in danger of hackers knowing your address and potentially targeting you. Smart HD TVs and smartphones already can do this (which is why I don't have one - in fact I don't have a TV at all since it switched to digital as I have no need for TV believe it or not!). Given the propensity for all kinds of 'smart' so-called 'state of the art' technology to be more insidious and potentially dangerous than most people realise in this ever-more Dystopian world in which we live (and see how just by reading the news every day of stories of people's entire computer Hard drives, and bank accounts and other confidential records, being easily hacked etc etc just because we now rely so much on everything being done online), I feel reluctant to take the plunge and commit to having a smart meter installed.

So can anybody tell me otherwise, for instance if all this is just scaremongering and, if that is the case, can they - or somebody at OVO - give me the ABSOLUTE CONCRETE FACTS about how their smart meters would NOT compromise any elements of customer confidentiality or privacy once they are installed?? If this cannot be promised with a degree of factual certainty, then I will not have one put in, it's as simple as that.

Thanking you beforehand for reading this far.
I am with you and do not believe the concerns about smart meter privacy and security risks are scaremongering. Plus there is a suspicion that way down the road when we run out of enough energy generation capacity, they could be use to 'ration' power. The imbecilic ads provide only one consumer benefit ("know how much energy you are using" - sorry, I have a monthly bill for that, what more do I need? "change your pattern of usage to save money" - sorry, any significant saving would need a wholesale lifestyle transplant) whereas in fact all the real benefits are on the providers' and generators' sides. This is NOT being done for individual consumer benefit. Studies elsewhere (e.g. Canada) have shown that smart meters actually resulted in an increase in consumer bills (to say nothing of the hidden subsidy in our bills for paying for these things that only benefit energy company shareholders). Eventually we will see bare-faced bribery (larger discounts only available with smart meters) to get these things rolled out. The stakeholders are lobbying hard and they want this badly. At some point it will be mandatory by regulation/law but our lords and masters prefer that "the market" fixes this itself. There are some good web sites out there with names something like 'stop smart meters' for those who wish to become more informed. (Wonders how long this post will remain on forum.)
Thanks for your input - tellingly, nobody at OVO has seen fit to come back to me with an answer yet or reassurance to the contrary which I guess tells me all I need to know. I suppose that I am not one of those who are easily hoodwinked into succumbing to every technological innovation or who believes that everything state of the art necessarily equals good - in fact a lot of it suggests quite the opposite. I remain on the fence about this one and will not take the plunge just yet (the same goes for internet banking - where interest rates are always higher for such accounts as a sort of incentive for you in exchange for you putting your trust in online banking and then be at the mercy of hacking etc...)
Hi @G57l and @SimonMartin

Thanks for getting involved on the Forum! You're not the first to raise this topic, and I understand your concerns in regards to smart meters, but would like to take a moment to assure you that they’re completely safe and secure.

Your smart meter data is secured with end to end encryption and controlled access - as well as other security measures agreed with the Government.

We have a helpful OVO answers page with more information on this: https://www.ovoenergy.com/ovo-answers/topics/smart-technology/smart-meters/how-do-you-protect-the-data-in-my-smart-meter.html

You might also like to take a look at Energy UK's guide to smart meter security - http://www.energy-uk.org.uk/policy/smart-meters.html.

This page has lots of useful information, including the Data Guide for Smart Meters, which outlines the key information on your consumer rights and choices when you get a smart meter installed.

Hope this helps,
Emily
Emily
There is NO SUCH THING as "completely safe and secure". All security is relative. The data transmission from the meter may be relatively secure but when it hits your database it is as open to hacking, downloading to PC/USB stick and being left on a train, etc., as any other set of data being stored anywhere else.

And it is not just security in terms of whether data is encrypted or accessible at any one of a number of interfaces in its journey from the SM onwards, it is also about the extraction of that data and its monetisation, or its use to manipulate consumers' use of energy that is of equal concern. That is a privacy issue.
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Scammers compiling the databases of all your details may one day pounce.

...that is the fear.

Who can refer me to a comprehensive website that we can use to protect ourselves with the most secure settings in Google, Facebook etc..?
Not really a topic for an Ovo forum, really, I suspect and what you want to protect is different from what others want to protect so there is no answer to such an open question - and almost certainly no one "comprehensive website". But as a start, do not use any advertising based "free" service without understanding that you and your data are the product, not the customer. Personally, I refuse to go near FB or any other social media - I have no need and do not desire to make my private life public. I have weighed the risks of using Gmail and continue to do so for some mail. I use DuckDuckGo rather than Google for searches (DDG does not track your searches). Perversely the old phrase "Google is your friend" applies here (but use DDG) as there are many places online that address these issues. One place I have found useful is securityplanner.org though I do not know if it goes into the arcana of FB settings. PS: For "scammers" add "and governments"

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