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 nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand On The Money: Fed chief warns of 'unthinkable' harm if debt ceiling breached | Powell basks in bipartisan praise amid Trump attacks | Federal deficit jumps to 7 billion Fed chief basks in bipartisan praise as lawmakers dismiss Trump attacks MORE (D-Va.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBottom Line Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 jitters hit both parties in the Senate MORE (R-Colo.) and in the House by Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHouse Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting Trump: 'Petrified' Democrats afraid to take on progressive congresswomen The Memo: Toxic 2020 is unavoidable conclusion from Trump tweets MORE (R-Texas) and Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries Senate panel advances bill to protect government 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.

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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) HassanSecond ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Overnight Health Care: Poll finds most Americans misunderstand scope of 'Medicare for All' | Planned Parenthood chief readies for 2020 | Drugmakers' lawsuit ramps up fight with Trump MORE (D-N.H.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTwo GOP lawmakers back Trump's comments on Democratic lawmakers: 'I'll pay for their tickets out of this country' Former Navy officer, teacher enters race to unseat GOP senator in Montana Democratic senators want candidates to take Swalwell's hint and drop out 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.