Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

UK government proposes IoT security label

Steve Rogerson
May 9, 2019



Goods sold in the UK will have to carry an IoT security label if they are to be connected to the internet, according to plans announced in London last week by the government’s digital minister Margot James.
 
The aim is to ensure that millions of household items that are connected to the internet are better protected from cyber attacks.
 
Options that the government will be consulting on include a mandatory labelling scheme. The label would tell consumers how secure are their products such as smart TVs, toys and appliances. The move means retailers will only be able to sell products with an IoT security label.
 
The consultation focuses on mandating the top three security requirements that are set out in the current Secure by Design code of practice. These are that:

  • IoT device passwords must be unique and not resettable to any universal factory setting;
  • Manufacturers of IoT products provide a public point of contact as part of a vulnerability disclosure policy; and
  • Manufacturers explicitly state the minimum length of time for which the device will receive security updates through an end-of-life policy.
Following the consultation, the security label will initially be launched as a voluntary scheme to help consumers identify products that have basic security features and those that don’t.
 
The consultation follows the government’s voluntary Secure by Design code of practice for consumer IoT security launched last year. The code advocates for stronger cyber security to be built into smart products right from the design stage, and has already been backed by Centrica Hive, HP Inc Geo and, more recently, Panasonic.
 
“Many consumer products that are connected to the internet are often found to be insecure, putting consumers privacy and security at risk,” said James. “Our code of practice was the first step towards making sure that products have security features built in from the design stage and not bolted on as an afterthought. These new proposals will help to improve the safety of internet-connected devices and is another milestone in our bid to be a global leader in online safety.”
 
The proposals came a day after James held a roundtable on IoT security with global technology companies. As a result Amazon, Philips, Panasonic, Samsung, Miele, Yale and Legrand affirmed their commitment to taking steps to ensure that effective security is being implemented across IoT products on the market.
 
“Serious security problems in consumer IoT devices, such as pre-set unchangeable passwords, continue to be discovered and it’s unacceptable that these are not being fixed by manufacturers,” said National Cyber Security Centre technical director Ian Levy. “This innovative labelling scheme is good news for consumers, empowering them to make informed decisions about the technology they are bringing into their homes.”
 
The government is working with international partners to ensure the guidelines drive a consistent approach to IoT security. The proposals set out in the consultation have the potential to impact security of devices made across the world to meet the UK’s future standards.
 
Alternative options to the label that the government is also consulting on would be to mandate retailers not to sell any products that do not adhere to the top three security requirements of the code.
 
“TechUK welcomes the publication of the government’s consultation on regulatory next steps for consumer IoT,” said Julian David, CEO of technology trade association TechUK. “This follows the government’s voluntary Secure by Design code of practice for consumer IoT security launched last year, which TechUK supported. The code advocates for stronger cyber security measures to be built into smart products right from the design stage. We are pleased that the security requirements outlined in the consultation are consistent with the Secure by Design code of practice and key industry standards that already exist for consumer IoT devices.”
 
He described this as “an important first step in creating flexible and purposeful regulation that stamps out poor security practices”, which he said could act as significant barriers on the take-up of consumer IoT devices.
 
“The proposals set out have the potential to positively impact the security of devices made across the world and it is good to see the government is working with international partners to ensure a consistent approach to IoT security,” said David. “TechUK looks forward to responding to this consultation on behalf of our members.”
 
The consultation document will be available on the government’s Secure by Design web pages and is open for five weeks. It has been published alongside a consumer survey report that tested various label designs with 6482 UK consumers as part of helping to create a labelling scheme that was backed by evidence.
 
The public consultation is part of a wider evidence based approach, to create regulatory proposals for consumer IoT products.
 
In February, European standards body Etsi launched Technical Specification 103 645, the first globally applicable industry standard on the cyber security of internet-connected consumer devices. TS 103 645 builds on a code of practice for consumer IoT security, but has been developed for wider European and global needs.