Better Cyber Security For Smart Devices

In the future makers of smart devices including phones, speakers, and doorbells will need to tell customers upfront how long a product will be guaranteed to receive vital security updates under groundbreaking plans to protect people from cyber attacks. This comes as the UK government has revealed details of its proposals to improve the security of most smart devices. 
 
The legislation aims to ban easy-to-guess default passwords, make it easier to report bugs, and force manufacturers to say when their devices will stop receiving security updates.
 
The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport ('DCMS') announced, on 21 April 2021, Government plans for a new cyber security law to protect smart devices from cyber-attacks, as part of releasing results of the Government public consultation on smart device cyber security.  In particular, the Government outlined that it is planning to change the law to make smart products, such as televisions, cameras, and household appliances which connect to the internet, more secure for individuals to use.
 
Research commissioned by the UK government show almost half (49%) of UK residents have purchased at least one smart device since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. These everyday products, such as smart watches, TVs and cameras, offer a huge range of benefits, yet many remain vulnerable to cyber attacks. Just one vulnerable device can put a user’s network at risk. 
 
To counter these threat, the government is planning a new law to make sure virtually all smart devices meet new requirements: 
 
  • Customers must be informed at the point of sale the duration of time for which a smart device will receive security software updates.
  • A ban on manufacturers using universal default passwords, such as ‘password’ or ‘admin’, that are often preset in a device’s factory settings and are easily guessable.
  • Manufacturers will be required to provide a public point of contact to make it simpler for anyone to report a vulnerability.
Mobile phones and other smart devices can be a gold mine for hackers looking to steal data, yet a great number still run older software with holes in their security systems. The DCMS propose legislation to ensure shoppers know how long products are supported with vital security updates before they buy and are making devices harder to break into by banning easily guessable default passwords. Requiring unique passwords, operating a vulnerability disclosure program, and informing consumers on the length of time products will be supported is a minimum that any manufacturer should provide.
 
These measures are all included in the international Internet of Secure Things (IoXT) Alliance Compliance Programme and have been well received by manufacturers around the world.
 
The UK government has played an important  vital role in developing the first major international standard for consumer device cyber security to help manufacturers protect consumers around the world from falling victim to cyber attacks. Consumers are increasingly reliant on connected products at work and at home. "The Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated this trend and while manufacturers of these devices are improving security practices gradually, it is not yet good enough." according to National Cyber Security Centre Technical Director Dr Ian Levy.
 
GovUK:    DCMS:     Data Guidance:      Computer Weekly:     E&T:       Public Service Executive:    Image: Unsplash
 
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