“Sometimes the wheel turns slowly, but it turns.”
That quote, made famous by Lorne Michaels, certainly applies in the case of the government’s involvement in securing internet-connected devices.
By now, almost everyone has at least one “smart” device in their home or driveway. Projections are that there will be more internet-connected devices than computers and mobile phones by the year 2020, and the rate of growth is still increasing.
As exciting as that sounds, there’s a dark side to those statistics. Most manufacturers are notoriously bad when it comes to securing them. In fact, most internet-connected devices don’t have even basic security protections in place, which has led to hackers creating vast armies of enslaved devices to serve in their bot nets, which they use to conduct denial of service attacks. The movie, I.T. with Pierce Brosnan dramatizes the complete lack of security with the IoT (and there are other media movies and shows about this, i.e., Mr. Robot, Demon Seed, and the list goes on).
In recent months, we’ve seen hackers take control of everything from smart guns to smart cars and even internet-connected medical devices.The key difference here is that while hacking your PC might cost you money, the examples above put human lives in danger, and finally, the government is getting involved.
There’s a new bill making its way through the halls of Congress called The Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017 (IoTCIA). While the name is a bit of a mouthful, its purpose is strikingly simple and clear. The bill proposes a minimum set of security standards that must be in place in order for the government to purchase smart devices.
Given the sheer amount of product the government purchases each year, for the first time, manufacturers have a clear and compelling reason to begin implementing device security, which they have been steadfastly ignoring to this point.
Currently, the fate of the bill is unknown, but it certainly seems like something that both major political parties can get behind. If it passes, it will be good news indeed for everyone who owns a smart device, which again, at this point, is almost everyone. Progress may have been slow in this case, and long overdue, but at last, the wheel is turning.