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 WarnerIntelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing l Air Force reveals it secretly built and flew new fighter jet l Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' House approves bill to secure internet-connected federal devices against cyber threats MORE (D-Va.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerGraham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Gardner signals support for taking up Supreme Court nominee this year Tumultuous court battle upends fight for Senate MORE (R-Colo.) and in the House by Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHillicon Valley: Oracle confirms deal with TikTok to be 'trusted technology provider' | QAnon spreads across globe, shadowing COVID-19 | VA hit by data breach impacting 46,000 veterans House approves bill to secure internet-connected federal devices against cyber threats House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts MORE (R-Texas) and Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyRep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair Hillicon Valley: Oracle confirms deal with TikTok to be 'trusted technology provider' | QAnon spreads across globe, shadowing COVID-19 | VA hit by data breach impacting 46,000 veterans House approves bill to secure internet-connected federal devices against cyber threats 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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) HassanCongress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power MORE (D-N.H.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Will Republicans' rank hypocrisy hinder their rush to replace Ginsburg? Toobin: McConnell engaging in 'greatest act of hypocrisy in American political history' with Ginsburg replacement vote 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.