The GCHQ has stepped in to help secure the new £11bn ($15bn) smart metres project, some of which are currently being installed in British homes across the country. The smart systems communication channel uses a single encryption code, which poses a serious security threat to the country's power grid – if accessed my malicious hackers.
After uncovering major security loopholes within the system, GCHQ has developed additional security measures to make it foolproof. Energy companies have already installed around two million smart metres across Britain.
Technical director at GCHQ, Dr Ian Levy, pointed out that there are several concerning security issues with the country's smart metre system, which could potentially cause a mass outage in the country's power grid. "I'm not talking about small outages here, because frankly you could take out the supply cabinets of 100 houses with just a hammer," he said, according to the Financial Times.
To ensure that the systems are more secure against hacking, GCHQ is collaborating with the Department of Energy and Climate Change to develop new and enhanced secure smart metres, in what could be of Britain's most ambitious 21st century IT projects.
The new initiative involves around 53 million units being installed across homes and small businesses in the country by 2020. It will minimise green house gas emissions and implement smarter energy monitoring mechanisms, which would end metre-reader visits.
To avoid a massive breach, the system has been designed such that it will remain secure, even if part of it is compromised in a cyber-attack.