Gov consults on IoT security labelling

Written by Peter Walker
01/05/19

Plans to ensure that millions of household items that are connected to the internet are better protected from cyber attacks have been launched by digital minister Margot James.

Options that the government is considering include a mandatory new labelling scheme, which would tell consumers how secure their products such as ‘smart’ TVs, toys and appliances are. The move means that retailers will only be able to sell products with an Internet of Things (IoT) security label.

Its 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.

James stated that 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.”

National Cyber Security Centre technical director Ian Levy commented: “Serious security problems in consumer IoT devices, such as pre-set unchangeable passwords, continue to be discovered and it’s unacceptable that these are not being fixed by manufacturers.”

Julian David, chief executive of techUK, added: “We are 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.”

The code, launched last year, advocates for stronger cyber security measures to be built into smart products from the design stage, and has already been backed by Centrica Hive, HP Inc Geo, and more recently, Panasonic.

The proposals come a day after Margot James held a roundtable on IoT security with global technology companies. As a result 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.

Alternative options to the label that government is also consulting on would be to mandate retailers to not sell any products that do not adhere to the top three security requirements of the code.

The consultation document will be available on the government’s Secure by Design pages and is open for five weeks. It has been published alongside a consumer survey report which tested various label designs with 6,482 UK consumers as part of helping to create a labelling scheme.

In February, the European Standards Organisation Iaunched Technical Specification 103 645, the first globally-applicable industry standard on the cyber security of internet-connected consumer devices.

TS 103 645 builds on the Code of Practice for Consumer IoT Security, but has been developed for wider European and global needs. Cybersecurity Tech Accord signatories endorsed the ETSI TS 103 645 in March 2019.