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 WarnerTrump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter split on Bloomberg video | Sanders briefed on Russian efforts to help campaign | Barr to meet with Republicans ahead of surveillance fight MORE (D-Va.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way The Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Nevada 8 people arrested outside Trump rally in Colorado for 'obstructed traffic' MORE (R-Colo.) and in the House by Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 Trump to attend California fundraiser with Oracle chairman The Hill's Morning Report - Nearing witness vote, GOP rushes to acquit Trump MORE (R-Texas) and Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyLawmakers with first-hand experience using food stamps call on Trump not to cut program Hillicon Valley: FCC moves against Huawei, ZTE | Dem groups ask Google to reconsider ads policy | Bill introduced to increase data access during probes Dems call out Oracle for lack of diversity on its board 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) HassanDemocratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students State officials press Congress for more resources to fight cyberattacks Sanders says NH Democratic senators were wrong to back Trump's USMCA MORE (D-N.H.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesAs many as eight GOP senators expected to vote to curb Trump's power to attack Iran Senate set for closing arguments on impeachment Schiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line 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.