Bill Seeks To Establish Cybersecurity Guidelines for IoT Devices

August 23, 2017
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Bi-Partisan Bill Seeks to Establish Cybersecurity Guidelines for IoT Devices 

The U.S. Senate is currently considering the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017, which would establish baseline cybersecurity standards for federal procurement of IoT devices. The bill would also allow security researchers to look for critical vulnerabilities in devices purchased by the government without fear of prosecution. 

Cybersecurity Bill Being Considered for IoT Devices

Photo courtesy of Stocksnap.io

The IoT bill has attracted co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, including U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), co-chairs of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT). The lawmakers drafted the legislation in consultation with technology and security experts from institutions such as the Berklett Cybersecurity Project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Proliferation of IoT Devices Increases Cyber Risks

The term “Internet of Things” (IoT) refers to the ability of everyday objects, from home security systems to pacemakers, to send and receive data via an Internet connection. Research firm Gartner, Inc. predicts that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016. The number of IoT devices is expected to reach 20.4 billion by 2020.

As adoption of the technology grows, so do the potential data privacy and cybersecurity risks, including unauthorized access, misuse of personal information, and personal safety concerns. According to Sen. Warner, the worldwide internet outages caused last year by devices infected with the Mirai malware highlighted the need for more robust discussions about securing IoT devices. 

“While I’m tremendously excited about the innovation and productivity that Internet-of-Things devices will unleash, I have long been concerned that too many Internet-connected devices are being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place,” said Sen. Warner

Provisions of Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017

The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017 broadly defines “Internet-Connected Device” to include any “physical object that—(A) is capable of connecting to and is in regular connection with the Internet; and (B) has computer processing capabilities that can collect, send, or receive data.” Among other provisions, the legislation would:

  • Require vendors of Internet-connected devices purchased by the federal government to ensure their devices are patchable, rely on industry standard protocols, do not use hard-coded passwords, and do not contain any known security vulnerabilities.
  • Direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop alternative network-level security requirements for devices with limited data processing and software functionality.
  • Direct the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate to issue guidelines regarding cybersecurity coordinated vulnerability disclosure policies to be required by contractors providing connected devices to the U.S. Government.
  • Exempt cybersecurity researchers engaging in good-faith research (often called “grey hats”) from liability under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act when engaged in research pursuant to adopted coordinated vulnerability disclosure guidelines.
  • Require each executive agency to inventory all Internet-connected devices in use by the agency.

Notably, the requirements would only apply to IoT devices sold to the federal government. However, should the measure advance, additional legislation for consumer-facing devices would likely be forthcoming.

Do you have any feedback, thoughts, reactions or comments concerning this topic? Feel free to leave a comment below for Fernando M. Pinguelo. If you have any questions about this post, please contact me or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work. To learn more about data privacy and security, visit eWhiteHouse Watch – Where Technology, Politics, and Privacy Collide (http://ewhwblog.com).