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 WarnerHillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day Microsoft embraces California law, shaking up privacy debate Google sparks new privacy fears over health care data MORE (D-Va.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerTariffs threaten 1.5M jobs: Study This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' MORE (R-Colo.) and in the House by Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats open televised impeachment hearings Here are the key players to watch at impeachment hearing Hillicon Valley: Schumer questions Army over use of TikTok | Federal court rules against random searches of travelers' phones | Groups push for election security funds in stopgap bill | Facebook's new payment feature | Disney+ launch hit by glitches MORE (R-Texas) and Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyLawmakers mourn death of 'Julia' star Diahann Carroll Jonathan Van Ness meets with Nancy Pelosi to discuss the Equality Act Democrats rally behind incumbents as Lipinski takes liberal fire 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) HassanHillicon Valley: Facebook launches 'News Tab' | Senate passes bill to take on 'deepfakes' | Schumer outlines vision for electric cars Senate passes legislation to combat 'deepfake' videos Hillicon Valley: Senators seek national security review of TikTok | TikTok denies claims of Chinese government influence | CNN chief rips Facebook policy on political ads | Dem questions DHS' handling of personal data MORE (D-N.H.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesPerry replacement moves closer to confirmation despite questions on Ukraine Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later Conservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks 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.