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APDCL smart meters are easily hackable; claims Assam techie

By The Assam Tribune
APDCL smart meters are easily hackable; claims Assam techie

Representational Image (AT Photo)

Guwahati, May 8: In a shocking revelation, a technical expert from Bongaigaon, Assam claimed that the Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL) smart meters can be easily accessed by malicious hackers.

Although smart meters are useful because they allow energy utilities to efficiently track energy use and allocate energy production. But because they’re connected to a grid, they can also serve as back doors for malicious hackers.

The smart meters installed by APDCL have been under the scanner for several technical glitches including increased electricity bill. However, the recent disclosure by the technical expert identified as Rony Das decipher the vulnerability of the smart meters.

Das in a video claimed that the smart meters are very easy to hack. He went on to describe what a particular hacker can do once a smart meter is hacked. “One can avail free electricity for life time without making any payment. Secondly, electricity can be cut off from a home which has a smart meter installed. Moreover, the electricity of the entire state can be shut down, wherever the smart meters are installed. This can create a major impact,” added Das.

The revelation was made following a research conducted by Das and his friend Aditya Singh.

Smart meters are installed in every households and one can recharge it by downloading applications. Of late, consumers complained of several scams in the name of APDCL, the state electricity board has also issued warning to its customers about fraudulent messages being circulated in the name of the company. The company has urged the customers to remain vigilant and to contact local offices for any help or clarifications.

“Scammers look out for data and once they get hold of it, it becomes easy to extort money from the consumers. Several scammer groups are operating in India. However, they need data to scam people so our research was based on where the data was leaked from, since APDCL will never compromise on the security of its customers. During the research, Das identified that there is a security breach and delved deeper to find out the cause. It was during these events that we came to know how easily the APDCL smart meter can be hacked,” Das claimed in the video.

In the video, Das also gave a demo on how a smart meter can be hacked. He further requested the authorities concerned to focus on the anomalies as it can be a risk factor for the consumers if not monitored. Smart meters expose the power grid to cyberattacks that could lead to power outages, by cutting off people's electricity. Malicious hackers can put the entire state into off line mode, or extract consumer data in just a few clicks. He further requested Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to look into the matter.

Earlier, while speaking to The Assam Tribune, Das confirmed that he took up the matter with APDCL authorities and a team of 12 members from APDCL reached Bongaigaon to discuss the matter with him. They also acknowledged the glitches in the system and fixed the same. Das was later informed via an email on 25th of April that the loophole has been mended.

Although APDCL claimed that the issue has been sorted but the very idea of installing a smart meter without proper quality check could possibly put the security of consumers as well as the state in jeopardy. Given the scope of vulnerability, a cyber-attack could also lead to security breach into important premises which are critical in terms of security of the state or the country.

According to an engineer placed in APDCL who has been closely monitoring the hack has stated on conditions of anonymity that this loophole has been acknowledged by APDCL and they are still upgrading the system to make sure that no such hacks happen in the near future.

As on April 28, the APDCL has installed 5.79 lakh smart meters, as per information available in the National Smart Grid Mission dashboard.

A study conducted by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) stated that Assam, among six states surveyed, has the highest share of consumers who are satisfied with smart electricity or prepaid meters and feel that these have enabled greater control over electricity expenses. However, things are different on ground as ever since the smart prepaid meters were installed, consumers has raised concern over the hike in electricity bills, prompting Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to instruct the APDCL authorities to urgently fix the faulty smart meters and address public grievances.

The APDCL later clarified that that smart prepaid meters do not lead to an increase in electricity charges. The APDCL authorities stated that smart meters provide details on daily electricity consumption to encourage consumers to use electricity judiciously as per needs resulting in savings of energy. They further advised consumers to install check meters alongside the smart meter by contacting their concerned sub-division offices.

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