Government unveils plans to introduce new laws for Internet-connected devices

Plans to ensure that millions of household items now connected to the Internet are better protected from cyber attacks have been launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Options upon which the Government will be consulting include a mandatory new labelling scheme. The label would tell consumers how secure their products such as ‘smart’ TVs and other appliances really are. The move means that retailers would only be able to sell products with an Internet of Things (IoT) security label.

The consultation focuses on mandating the Top Three security requirements that are set out in the current ‘Secure by Design’ Code of Practice. These include that:

*IoT device passwords must be unique and not resettable to any universal factory setting

*Manufacturers of IoT products provide a public point of contact as part of a vulnerability disclosure policy

*Manufacturers explicitly state the minimum length of time for which the device will receive security updates through an end of life policy

Following the consultation, the security label will initially be launched as a voluntary scheme to help consumers identify products that have basic security features and those that don’t.

Privacy and security at risk

Digital Minister Margot James said: “Many consumer products that are connected to the Internet are often found to be insecure, putting consumers privacy and security at risk. Our Code of Practice was the first step towards making sure that products have security features built-in from the design stage and not bolted on as an afterthought. These new proposals will help to improve the safety of Internet-connected devices. It’s another milestone in our bid to be a global leader in online safety.”

Dr Ian Levy, technical director at the National Cyber Security Centre, observed: “Serious security problems in consumer IoT devices, such as pre-set unchangeable passwords, continue to be discovered. It’s unacceptable that they’re not being fixed by manufacturers. This innovative labelling scheme is good news for consumers, empowering them to make informed decisions about the technology they’re bringing into their homes.”

Julian David, CEO of techUK, explained: “techUK welcomes the publication of the Government’s consultation on regulatory next steps for consumer IoT. This follows the Government’s voluntary Secure by Design Code of Practice for consumer IoT security launched last year, which techUK also supported. The Code advocates for stronger cyber security measures to be built into smart products right from the design stage. We’re pleased that the security requirements outlined in the consultation are consistent with the Secure by Design Code of Practice and key industry standards that already exist for consumer IoT devices. This is an important first step in creating flexible and purposeful regulation that stamps out poor security practices. The proposals set out have the potential to positively impact the security of devices made across the world. It’s good to see the Government is working with international partners to ensure a consistent approach towards IoT security. techUK looks forward to responding to this consultation on behalf of our members.”

Secure by Design Code of Practice

The consultation follows the Government’s aforementioned voluntary Secure by Design Code of Practice for consumer IoT security launched last year and which has already been backed by Centrica Hive, HP Inc Geo and more recently Panasonic.

Margot James recently held a round table discussion on IoT security with global technology companies. As a result of this, Amazon, Philips, Panasonic, Samsung, Miele, Yale and Legrand affirmed their commitment to taking steps to ensure that effective security solutions are being implemented across IoT products on the market.

The Government is working with international partners to ensure that the guidelines drive a consistent approach to IoT security. The proposals set out in the consultation have the potential to impact the security of devices made across the world in order to meet the UK’s future standards.

Alternative options to the label that Government are also consulting on would be to mandate retailers to not sell any products that don’t adhere to the Top Three security requirements of the Code.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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