Ultrasonic meters have become a popular way to measure the water usage in homes, but they’re also becoming a target for thieves, according to a new report from National Geographic.
“The more you put these in the house, the more likely you are to lose it,” says Matt Pemberton, a product manager with the security company, Security Alerts.
“It’s going to be a very popular way of tracking your water usage, especially if you’re living in a home where you have no plumbing.”
In the report, published this week, Pember.
“Security Alerts” points out that the devices are being used by criminals to steal information from water meters, including the number of times they’ve been activated and the number and type of taps they’ve used.
A typical thief will steal a water meter by inserting a small device into the meter’s circuit and then pulling the plug.
The thief then uses the information from the sensor to identify the source of the water meter.
The same thief will then break into a home’s plumbing system and turn off the water, leaving only a meter that hasn’t been activated.
A few weeks ago, the company noticed a similar problem with a water-meter tracker from a different company that’s being used to track people’s water usage.
Security Alertes’ Pember found that the thief had used the tracker’s code to get access to the water meters’ data.
“He basically made it so that you’re using water meters in your house,” Pember says.
“And you’re paying for water.”
The problem with using water-monitoring devices to track someone else’s water consumption is that it makes it easy for thieves to figure out which of your taps are draining the most.
In some cases, Pmber found, thieves were able to determine that someone else was draining the water by reading the meter in real-time, then turning off the meter and using a digital timer to see if the water levels returned to normal.
“If it was happening a lot in your household, that would make it pretty easy to figure that out,” Pmber says.
It’s also possible to hack a meter to steal more information.
“You could get a lot of information from that meter if you knew the exact number of taps and the type of tap that it’s connected to,” he says.
Pember’s company tested a device from the company that would allow the hacker to monitor a person’s water use remotely and then remotely turn off a tap.
“That device is still being developed,” Pamber says.
For now, security experts recommend using the most secure way to monitor your water use.
“A meter that has an alarm feature that is turned off is a great way to tell if you have a problem with your water or the water,” Patherton says.