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Underwriters Laboratories To Launch Cyber Security Certification Program

Meanwhile, UL is also in discussion with the White House on its plans to foster standards for Internet of Things security.

It appears the White House's vision of an Underwriters Laboratories-type certification for Internet of Things products could become a reality: a UL official says the organization is involved with the US government's initiative to promote such security certification standards.

"We are involved with those initiatives," says Maarten Bron, director of innovations at UL, of the White House's interest in coming up with a UL-type program for increasingly Internet-connected consumer devices. "What the White House is trying to achieve is to foster collaboration between private and government sectors to come up with these standards … Plans are still in the making from the White House" side, he says, so he can't share any additional details at this time.

UL, meanwhile, also is putting the final touches on a test and certification program of its own for IoT products, Bron says. "For us, cybersecurity and IoT have been on the radar screen for a long time already. We are prepared to release a test and certification program for this" that draws from its customers' needs and concerns, he says.

"While many details of The White House initiative are still in development at this early stage, UL is prepared to align with the initiative in its goal to bring the public and private sectors closer together in fighting cybercrime," UL's Bron says.

The White House has been mulling a UL "seal" model for IoT security: Michael Daniel, special assistant to the President and the nation's cybersecurity coordinator, in an interview in April with Dark Reading, said the Obama administration considers an Underwriters Laboratories-type certification model a good fit for driving vendors to secure their increasingly Internet-connected consumer products.

"We are very much interested in voluntary models" for this, Daniel said in the interview. "A nonprofit consortium that would rate products … I find that model very intriguing and similar in the development" of IoT security and safety, he said.

Rumblings that the White House may be ready to take action on a cybersecurity UL emerged last week after Peiter C. Zatko, aka Mudge, tweeted that he was leaving Google's ATAP group to create a "#CyberUL." "Goodbye Google ATAP, it was a blast. The White House asked if I would kindly create a#CyberUL, so here goes!"

No official word from the White House nor details yet from Zatko, but UL's Bron confirmed that his organization was aware of and involved with the administration's initiative. UL's traditional role has been testing and certifying appliances for electrical safety, but it also created a cyber security division about four years ago. "It's about security in the virtual world," Bron says, including transaction-oriented electronic payments, namely certification of chip and PIN technologies, he says.

"We developed automated testing tools that … retrieve those settings from bank card chips and cross-validate against Visa best practices," for instance, he says. "In our labs, we accredit and certify components on behalf of Visa and MasterCard," for instance.

As for IoT, UL is looking at health and industrial controls systems, for example. "We're very much focused on trying to detect and mitigate known vulnerabilities … in devices such as for health and industrial control systems. We really see a strong need in the market."

UL has a website with more information.

Black Hat USA is next month. Register here.

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