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Lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill for 'internet of things' security standards

Lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill for 'internet of things' security standards
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday unveiled legislation that would create cybersecurity standards for internet-connected devices, often known as the “internet of things.”

The bill, introduced in the Senate by Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSocial media posts, cellphone data aid law enforcement investigations into riots 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Confirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed MORE (D-Va.) and Cory GardnerCory GardnerOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs denounce Capitol attack | Contractors halt donations after siege | 'QAnon Shaman' at Capitol is Navy vet Lobbying world Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Colo.) and in the House by Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHouse poised to override Trump veto for first time Lawmakers call for including creation of Latino, women's history museums in year-end spending deal House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit MORE (R-Texas) and Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyDemocrats press to bar lawmakers from carrying guns in the Capitol House Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Lawmakers push for improved diabetes care through tech advancements MORE (D-Ill.), would require established standards for government use of the devices.

Internet of things devices can open the door to a host of potential security issues; Hackers who are able to access one device can sometimes find a way to manipulate other connected items. They can also infiltrate networks or systems linked to the devices.

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Government officials, lawmakers and security researchers have pointed to the vulnerabilities created by the interconnected nature of the devices — which can include products from ranging from vehicles to home appliances like doorbells — as a major cybersecurity concern.

Gardner and Warner introduced a different version of the bill in the 115th Congress, but the measure did not advance.

Warner, who co-chairs the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus with Gardner and is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that he’s concerned about internet of things devices “being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place, with the device market prioritizing convenience and price over security.”

Gardner said that as the devices “continue to transform our society and add countless new entry points into our networks, we need to make sure they are secure, particularly when they are integrated into the federal government’s networks.”

Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanBipartisan group of senators: The election is over Seven Senate races to watch in 2022 Insurers lose multiyear lobbying fight over surprise medical bills MORE (D-N.H.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time McConnell says he's undecided on whether to vote to convict Trump Member of Senate GOP leadership: Impeaching Trump 'not going to happen' MORE (R-Mont.) are also backing the legislation.

Under the bill, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would create recommendations for the federal government’s use of internet of things devices, including establishing minimum security requirements to address the products' cyber vulnerabilities.

The NIST would also be required to issue a report on the increasing use and overlap of internet of things devices, including recommendations on how to address cybersecurity issues.

The legislation also would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create guidelines for the purchase and use of such devices. And the NIST and OMB would have to revisit the policies and recommendations every five years to ensure they are in line with best practices.

“As the government continues to purchase and use more and more internet-connected devices, we must ensure that these devices are secure,” Kelly, who introduced the House version of the bill with Hurd, said in a statement. “Everything from our national security to the personal information of American citizens could be vulnerable because of security holes in these devices.”

Hurd described the bill as “groundbreaking work” and called for internet of things devices to “be built with security in mind, not as an afterthought.”

Several prominent security firms and groups are backing the legislation, including Symantec, Cloudflare and researchers at universities like Harvard and Stanford.