On August 1, a bipartisan group of four senators introduced a bill that would impose specific cybersecurity requirements on providers of Internet of Things devices when doing business with the U.S. Government and provide liability protections for security researchers who disclose vulnerabilities affecting these devices. Though the bill’s security requirements would apply only in cases where entities are acting as contractors to the U.S. Government, if enacted, it likely would be influential on IoT vendors operating in the consumer context as well. The bill is largely consistent with an ongoing multistakeholder effort led by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration aimed at developing voluntary security standards for Internet-connected devices.
How do you ensure that an Internet-connected sensor or device—often inexpensive and designed for lifespans of up to 20 years or more—can be secured against not only the intrusions of today but also those of the future? This question has taken on new urgency as low-cost Internet-connected devices are increasingly being co-opted into massive networks, known as “botnets,” that are capable of causing widespread disruption.
On January 12, 2017, prior to the new administration taking power, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration within the Department of Commerce released a Green Paper on “Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things,” which assesses the technological and policy landscape of the Internet of Things. The Green Paper is expansive in scope, reflecting the broad range of issues raised in comments submitted by stakeholders in the private sector, academia, government, and civil society following NTIA’s April 2016 request for public comment. The Green Paper identifies key issues, and provides recommendations and assessments on the potential benefits and risks that IoT portends. The NTIA identifies cybersecurity, privacy and cross-border data flows as the most significant policy issues. It also proposes four principles for future policy engagement in which the Department would play a central role in creating conditions that would foster IoT growth. The agency also requested additional comments on the issues raised by the Green Paper.
On October 13, the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop on drone privacy and cybersecurity as part of its Fall Technology Series. Close watchers of the drone privacy debate would recognize the arguments presented at the FTC workshop as reminiscent of the comprehensive and productive debate over drone privacy played out before the National Telecommunications and Information Administration earlier this year. The NTIA process concluded with the release of Best Practices for drone privacy supported by a diverse group of industry members and civil society representatives. Although the FTC’s workshop was in many ways a reprise of the NTIA multi-stakeholder debate, the workshop was notable insofar as the public gained new insights into FTC staff views on drone privacy and cybersecurity.
On April 5, 2016, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration initiated an inquiry to review the potential benefits and challenges presented by the Internet of Things. In its Notice and request for public comment (RFC), NTIA is seeking input on the current IoT technological and policy landscape with a goal of developing recommendations—in the form of a Green Paper—as to whether and how the federal government should play a role in fostering the advancement of IoT technologies.