GCHQ intervened to change the original designs and save the £11bn nationwide system of smart energy meters against hackers on discovery of a fault, which meant all of the meters were given the same encryption key.
The communication channel between each meter and the utilities operating them was designed to be encrypted. But the encryption key — the code used to unscramble the data each meter sends and receives — was the same for all of them.
If a hacker was able to crack the key, they could potentially gain control of every meter, GCHQ feared, according to a senior Whitehall official. That would allow them to “start blowing things up” the official told the Financial Times.
Dr Ian Levy, the technical director of GCHQ’s communications electronic security group, said in a separate interview a number of security challenges surrounded the millions of gas and electricity smart meters being installed.