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.
Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office released a technology assessment of the Internet of Things for Congressional members of the IoT Caucus. The GAO report offers an introduction to IoT; reviews the many uses and their associated benefits that connected devices may bring to consumers, industry, and the public sector; and highlights the potential implications of the use of IoT, including information security challenges, privacy challenges, and government oversight. The report also identifies areas of apparent consensus among experts regarding the challenges posed by IoT, though the appropriate responses are disputed. Accordingly, the report may act as a foundation for future policymaker discussions about regulating IoT.
As previously reported, on Thursday, March 9th, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted a forum on the consumer implications of recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies. This is the second of two entries on the March 9th FinTech Forum and focuses on the discussions surrounding blockchain technologies, in which panelists reflected on the nascent stage of the technology, industry representatives expressed confusion over the applicability of current regulation, and regulators expressed a lack of clarity over jurisdictional questions.
On Thursday, March 9th, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted a forum on the consumer implications of recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies. The FTC acknowledged the benefits of technological developments in AI and blockchain technologies, but stressed that advancements in these technologies must be coupled with an awareness of and active engagement in identifying and minimizing associated risks. This blog post focuses on the AI discussion, which addressed how the values of privacy, autonomy, and fairness are affected by the advent of AI systems as well as how to ensure safety and security in the development and deployment of individual and connected AI systems.
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.
Cloud service providers are on notice: you are HIPAA business associates, even if you are unable to access the HIPAA protected information in your cloud. The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights released guidance making clear that cloud service providers that create, receive, maintain, or transmit electronic protected health information are covered by HIPAA.
Some of the largest cyber attacks in recent memory have employed an army of connected home devices to achieve their goals. This co-opting of connected home devices owned by consumers around the world occurs without those consumers’ knowledge or consent. For example, in mid-September, several thousand devices—home routers, Internet-connected video cameras, and digital video recorders—were used to create a “botnet” that collectively pounded the security researcher Brian Krebs’ website with 620 gigabits of data per second. At the time, the attack was thought to be the largest in history. An even larger army was assembled a few days later for an attack on the French hosting provider OVH that peaked at over one terabit of traffic per second. These distributed denial-of-service attacks were successful because they exploited basic security vulnerabilities in connected home devices, such as default passwords used to access administrator settings.
This week, the Online Trust Alliance turned its attention from manufacturers to consumers by releasing a checklist of basic steps that consumers can take to improve the privacy and security “hygiene” of their connected home and wearable devices. Just as smoke detectors require periodic battery changes, the OTA warns that IoT devices also benefit from regular checkups.
The Department of Health and Human Services released guidance on July 11, 2016, intended to help the healthcare industry prepare for and respond to ransomware attacks. Specifically, this guidance clarifies: (1) that a ransomware attack is considered a “security incident” under HIPAA, and (2) that a ransomware attack will typically be considered a “breach” by HHS unless entities are able to demonstrate that there is a “low probability of compromise.” The guidance also clarifies that covered entities must implement the same risk assessment processes as they would with other types of cyber threats, including malware. At a time when ransomware attacks are on the rise, this guidance heightens the potential regulatory enforcement consequences of these events.
On March 15, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission reached an agreement with Lord & Taylor to settle charges that the luxury department store brand engaged in allegedly deceptive native advertising practices by failing to disclose and accurately represent its relationship to online magazines and fashion “influencers” who promoted the brand. This latest enforcement action follows the FTC’s release of a policy statement on native advertising practices and a companion set of guidelines for businesses. The action provides a cautionary tale with practical lessons about the importance of transparency in marketing strategies that mimic the look and feel of surrounding content.
Fifteen months after forming an Internet of Things working group, on March 2, 2016, the Online Trust Alliance released a final version of its IoT Framework along with a companion Resource Guide that provides explanations and additional resources. The voluntary Framework sets forth thirty suggested guidelines that provide criteria for designing privacy, security, and sustainability into connected devices. The creation of the OTA IoT principles represents a potential starting point for achieving privacy- and security-protective innovation for IoT devices.
A growing number of state and federal laws require organizations to implement reasonable security safeguards to protect personal information. But what constitutes reasonable data security? This question has vexed organizations and spurred a considerable amount of litigation. On February 16, 2016, the California Attorney General’s Office released its 2016 Data Breach Report, which for the first time provides a listing of safeguards that the Attorney General views as constituting reasonable information security practices. Despite being focused on California, the Report’s recommendations are likely to have an impact far beyond the borders of the Golden State.
The FTC wants companies to listen. More precisely, the FTC wants companies to pay attention to and promptly to respond to reports of security vulnerabilities. That’s a key takeaway from the Commission’s recent settlement with ASUSTek. In its complaint against the Taiwanese router manufacturer, the FTC alleged that ASUS misrepresented its security practices and failed to reasonably secure its router software, citing the company’s alleged failure to address vulnerability reports as one of the Commission’s primary concerns. The settlement reiterates the warnings contained in the FTC’s recent Start with Security Guide and prior settlements with HTC America and Fandango: the FTC expects companies to implement adequate processes for receiving and addressing security vulnerability reports within a reasonable time.
If you’ve ever opened your washing machine to find white socks turned a pale shade of pink, you can relate to the sentiment of Buzzfeed UK’s piece “14 Laundry Fails We’ve All Experienced.” Humorous and empathetic, the piece mimicked Buzzfeed’s editorial tone and style, but also subtly promoted the message of a commercial advertiser—in this case, Dylon, a color dye manufacturer. And in what may be a sign of things to come in the US, the piece drew the attention of the U.K.’s advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority, which cited Buzzfeed for failing to make the piece “obviously identifiable” as commercial content, a violation of the U.K.’s Committee on Advertising Practices Code.
One of the most common devices in the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) was reportedly discovered to have a bug. According to the research firm Fortinet, a popular fitness tracker was vulnerable to wireless attacks through its unsecured Bluetooth port. A savvy attacker could install malware wirelessly within ten seconds—simply by coming within a few feet of the tracker. When the device’s owner returned home to sync daily activity with a computer, the malware could, in principle, infect the computer as well.
The threat of ransomware is one of three example scenarios highlighted in a recent white paper released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, titled Data Integrity: Reducing the Impact of an Attack. The paper launches a joint project led by the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, with participation by the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center and several private sector organizations.
On November 6, 2015, the European Commission issued its widely anticipated Communication to the European Parliament and Council about the effect of the Court of Justice of the European Union’s Schrems decision, which invalidated the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor framework. The Commission expresses a commitment to negotiate with the U.S. Government a new framework for cross-border transfers of personal data. The Commission also emphasizes that the Communication does not have binding legal effect, but concludes that companies should rely on “alternative tools” for authorizing data flows to third countries like the United States.
On Tuesday November 3, the Spanish data protection authority, Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, sent a letter all companies operating in Spain that had previously notified the AEPD of cross-border data transfers to Safe Harbor certified companies. The letter warns companies that because Safe Harbor certifications are no longer recognized as valid, they must take steps to ensure that alternative mechanisms are implemented in order to continue transferring data to Safe Harbor certified companies in the United States. In particular, the AEPD is requiring of all companies that received the letter to inform it not later than January 29, 2016 of any mechanisms that have been implemented to ensure adequate protections for personal data transferred to importers in the United States.
The HHS Office for Civil Rights has launched an online portal designed to solicit questions from mHealth developers regarding compliance with HIPAA privacy and security requirements. The portal is designed to demystify HIPAA for app developers while providing guidance to regulators about which aspects of HIPAA may require clarification.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology released the draft Framework for Cyber-Physical Systems on September 18. The Framework is intended to serve as a common blueprint for the development of safe, secure, and interoperable systems as varied as smart energy grids, wearable devices, and connected cars. The NIST Cyber-Physical Systems Public Working Group developed the draft document over the past year with input from several hundred experts from industry, academia, and government. NIST will be accepting public comment on the draft for the next 45 days.
On August 12, the National Institute of Standards and Technology published a Request for Information to help develop the next generation of technical encryption standards used by the U.S. Government and federal contractors to protect sensitive information. The new standard will update Fair Information Processing Standard 140-2, which has provided the baseline requirements for the development, testing, and validation of cryptographic modules since 2001. While the RFI seeks input on several questions, NIST is primarily interested in the risks and benefits of transitioning—in whole or in part—to a competing standard developed by the International Standards Organization and International Electrotechnical Commission: ISO/IEC 19790:2012.
The Federal Trade Commission has published new guidance that “summarizes lessons learned” from the FTC’s 50-plus data security settlements while also announcing a series of data security conferences. In the new guidance titled “Start With Security: A Guide for Business,” the FTC acknowledges that the data security requirements contained in the settlements apply only to the affected companies. However, the settlements—and the FTC’s distillation of them—reveal regulatory expectations and identify risks that can affect companies of all types and sizes. In this post, we summarize the FTC’s new guidance and provide details on the FTC’s data security conferences happening this fall.
Emerging technologies, such as cloud computing and the “smart city,” have the potential to greatly advance our quality of life. The use, retention, and storage of data that go along with them, however, have raised citizen concerns about privacy risks. The National Institute of Standards and Technology addresses these concerns in a new draft report titled Privacy Risk Management for Federal Information Systems, which was released on May 29, 2015. The report introduces NIST’s Privacy Risk Management Framework, which anticipates and addresses privacy risk resulting from the processing of personal information. NIST intends that the framework will lay the foundation for establishing a common vocabulary that facilitates better understanding of (and communication about) privacy risks and how to effectively implement privacy principles. Although the report is directed at federal systems, the principles outlined may be useful for any business that processes personal information. The NIST report focuses on the development of two key pillars of the PRMF: privacy engineering objectives and a Privacy Risk Model.
After the recent release of the discussion draft of its Framework for Cyber-Physical Systems, the National Institute for Standards and Technology has continued its push to facilitate the development of a more secure interconnected environment by convening a workshop on cybersecurity for smart cities. Co-hosted by the Cyber Security Research Alliance and titled “Designed-in Cybersecurity for Smart Cities: A Discussion of Unifying Architectures, Standards, Lessons Learned and R&D Strategies,” the workshop brought together representatives of government, industry, and academia to discuss how cybersecurity and privacy might be designed into the infrastructure of smart cities.