Creating Trust Through Secure Communications

As legislation and regulation around smart meter data privacy continue to take shape, the transmission of energy consumption data is coming under increased scrutiny.
Published: Tue 25 Mar 2014

Protecting consumer data is a top priority for utilities around the world. With the advent of the smart grid and smart meters, personal data may be shared between consumers and the utility, and the protection of this data is a responsibility that must be carried out professionally and effectively.

The webcast “Creating a Platform of Trust-Meter Data Transmission The Secure Way” presented on the 3rd April 2014 by Philip Mason, Senior Product Manager, Smart Energy Solutions EMEA, Landis+Gyr, will explain solutions to eliminate key infrastructure vulnerabilities and ensure the implementation of a network your customers can trust.

We spoke to Peter Koller, VP Portfolio and Solution Management, Landis+Gyr, about the company’s approach to the development of security solutions for smart metering and the smart grid. He takes the opportunity to describe their smart grid solution Gridstream®, which has been designed to include secure communications. The solution is aimed at enabling utilities to comply with the requirements of the European Union directive on privacy, and its recommendations for the rollout of smart metering systems.

European Union to tackle the issues

The European Union is tackling the security and privacy issues that have arisen around the smart meter rollout in Europe.

Intensive discussions, research and numerous debates with consumer groups has led the EU commission to work on the privacy directive and establish a working group for smart grid cyber security as part of the work of ENISA.

In some markets, many national governments and regulators have chosen to follow a country specific approach in accordance with specific national requirements and industry guidelines in these markets.In general, EU standards for security and privacy in smart metering systems are already available and implemented by a number of manufacturers.

Today, there is a need to implement secure smart metering solutions in conformance with the existing European guidelines, removing a perceived barrier to realizing the benefits of a smarter grid.

Attitudes to cyber-security are changing

Five years ago, the security aspects of smart grid solutions were an after-thought but this is changing.

Driving this change in attitude is a clearer understanding of security requirements, a higher awareness of consumers’ privacy concerns, the awareness of potential cyber-risks to the grid, and a desire to reduce energy theft.

Increased awareness of these security issues is forcing utility executives to adopt a more strategic approach to smart meter rollouts by introducing more sophisticated security requirements.

Strategic investments

Utilities are beginning to understand the strategic nature and long-term benefit of the smart meter rollout, and the level of their investment in secure systems matches its strategic importance.

The need for establishing solutions that can provide security over the life-time of a typical smart metering installation requires a consistent, homogeneous and sustainable approach to investment which is able to meet long-term needs.

Interoperability in smart meter communications security

Interoperability can be achieved in different ways. Whichever way is chosen, it is important that one entity takes responsibility for the selection of the appropriate standards and possible options and then drives the validation process of conformance testing and certification accordingly. This entity could be a giant utility which develops its own specifications and takes responsibility for the functional and performance-related outcome. This includes security, as well as the maintenance of the long-term investment.

Many utilities in Europe however do not have the size and resources to undertake this long-term investment, and in response, open vendor associations, such as IDIS (Interoperable Device Interface Specifications) fulfil the need for a secure, future-proof and interoperable smart metering solution.

Interoperable Device Interface Specifications security is based on open international standards. Many vendors support these standards, however to achieve true interoperability, the options within these standards must be selected and then the implementation must be validated and certified. Interoperable Device Interface Specifications certification provides this.

Legislation remains an obstacle to the widespread adoption of smart meters, not fears for security.

The delay in widespread adoption of smart meters can be attributed to the lack of legislation or slow implementation and regulatory push as much as the national financing schemes. National regulators are slow to create a conducive environment in which the market for smart meters can grow. Smart metering provides benefits across the value chain and therefore, national regulators must encourage a sharing of costs to allow Distribution System Operators to invest in smart metering within their regulation policies.

In Europe, there have been very few cases where privacy or security issues have been the cause of roll-out delays.

Standards and solutions for smart metering security and privacy solutions are available and can be applied, explains Mr Koller.

Creating confidentiality

Encryption and authentication ensures that data remains confidential throughout transmission. It also ensures that the identity of the sender is verified and confirmed.

Encryption and authentication are standard in many business processes today, for example protecting banking transactions and health records.

By applying encryption and authentication to the smart meter, data is protected against unauthorized access and misuse. Consumers can be assured that their data remains confidential and that their privacy is protected.

With this technology, unauthorized devices are refused access to the smart metering network which ensures the integrity and availability of smart meter data - a major priority for utilities.

Secure communication on multiple levels

As media exposure, privacy and legislative concerns gain public attention, the need to demonstrate trust has never been more important in smart meter rollouts.

In response to increasing smart network security demands, Landis+Gyr further developed the Gridstream® solution to provide secure communication on multiple levels based on standard DLMS security techniques and applying symmetric and asymmetric encryption standards with secure key management and storage.

The return on investment is immediate. The solution provides robust security measures which will win the trust of consumers, regulators and national governments alike. And robust security mechanisms are a core element of risk management for any critical business system, says Mr Koller.