Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
3/18/2019
05:45 PM
50%
50%

New IoT Security Bill: Third Time's the Charm?

The latest bill to set security standards for connected devices sold to the US government has fewer requirements, instead leaving recommendations to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

For the third time in as many years, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require Internet of Things (IoT) products sold by federal contractors and vendors to abide by government guidelines to ensure a baseline of cybersecurity.

The current bill, supported by members of both parties and known as the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019, eschews specific recommendations and instead calls for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop security guidelines for IoT devices sold to the US government. 

The hope is that such legislation, if signed into law, would mean more secure IoT equipment overall, including in the consumer and commercial sector.

It is the latest attempt to convince manufacturers of connected devices to take security more seriously. The original legislation, known as the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017, was introduced after the Mirai botnet targeted Internet infrastructure provider Dyn and disrupted a wide variety of other Internet services in October 2016. Mirai compromised weakly secured digital video recorders and connected cameras, creating a botnet of more than 100,000 endpoints that leveled a series of distriubted denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Dyn

The original bipartisan IoT security legislation required that any device sold to the US government followed basic, well-established cybersecurity norms, such as no hard-coded passwords and being easily patchable. Even so, the legislation failed to overcome industry resistance.

The new IoT security legislation will likely result in the same requirements, because the original bill had only focused on common-sense, or "evergreen," guidelines, says Josh Corman, chief security officer for PTC, a maker of industrial IoT solutions.

"I think we are going to end up in a similar place, but later," he says. "So it means more exposure to threats and less secure devices being brought to market."

The bill is all about using the government's buying power as an incentive for companies to create more secure connected devices, Sen. John Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.

"While I'm excited about their life-changing potential, I'm also concerned that many IoT devices are being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place, with the device market prioritizing convenience and price over security," he said.

The current bill tasks NIST with creating requirements for federal agencies that consider the secure development, identity management, patching and configuration management of IoT devices. In addition, NIST is also tasked with developing recommendations on the management and use of IoT devices by March 31, 2020.

By removing the exact requirements from the legislation, lawmakers have eased the way to passage, says Nathan Owens, an attorney and partner with the law firm of Newmeyer & Dillion, who focuses on risk management and cybersecurity.

For lawmakers under pressure from the industry, "making it broader and going to an organization like NIST is easy to get behind," he says. "It makes the (passage of the) legislation really easy and palatable."

Within six months of the passage of the bill, NIST will be required to issue a report on the impact connected devices will have on federal operations and how agencies can mitigate cybersecurity risk. In addition, the bill specifically calls for NIST to develop coordinated vulnerability disclosure guidelines.

Finally, the bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to issue guidelines for each federal agency, following the NIST report and creation of recommendations with regards to internet-of-things technology. The bill requires that all federal contractors and vendors adhere to these guidelines.

Feds Only

While legislators aim to broadly impact the security of IoT devices through the power of federal purchasing, the bill itself only focuses on government requirements for the devices that agencies buy for their own use, says PTC's Corman. If the Pentagon purchases battlefield systems, they want to make sure that they cannot be hacked by other nations' militaries.

"The government has every right as a purchaser of device to want to have those products not be hackable or trackable," he says. "The manufacturers of a $100 device don't realize that, if its deployed by the federal government, that the attack surface and threat model is markedly different."

In many ways the legislation already follows the precedent set in legislation passed by California late last year, which requires manufacturers to incorporate "reasonable security feature or features" into IoT devices.

In a May 2018 report on defending against botnets and automated threats, the US Department of Homeland Security and US Department of Commerce recommended that technology and products include security at every stage of their development and manufacture. In addition, the report argued that the federal government should use its purchasing power to incentivize manufacturers to create more secure technology.

"Product developers, manufacturers, and vendors are motivated to minimize cost and time to market, rather than to build in security or offer efficient security updates," the report stated. "Market incentives must be realigned to promote a better balance between security and convenience when developing products.

Related Content:

 

 

 

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two cybersecurity summits at Interop 2019. Learn from the industry's most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the Interop agenda here.

Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/3/2020
Pen Testers Who Got Arrested Doing Their Jobs Tell All
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/5/2020
New 'Nanodegree' Program Provides Hands-On Cybersecurity Training
Nicole Ferraro, Contributing Writer,  8/3/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-15820
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains YouTrack before 2020.2.6881, the markdown parser could disclose hidden file existence.
CVE-2020-15821
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains YouTrack before 2020.2.6881, a user without permission is able to create an article draft.
CVE-2020-15823
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
JetBrains YouTrack before 2020.2.8873 is vulnerable to SSRF in the Workflow component.
CVE-2020-15824
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains Kotlin before 1.4.0, there is a script-cache privilege escalation vulnerability due to kotlin-main-kts cached scripts in the system temp directory, which is shared by all users by default.
CVE-2020-15825
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains TeamCity before 2020.1, users with the Modify Group permission can elevate other users' privileges.