Securing Uncle Sam’s Internet of Things


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Internet-connectivity is essential for a modern lifestyle. Consumers use internet of things devices to check social media, watch cat videos, play music, control home security systems, and communicate with each other using emojis. However, with great internet connectivity comes great cybersecurity threats. Hackers can exploit security weaknesses in web-connected internet-of-things devices to steal sensitive information. Furthermore, cybercriminals may hijack IoT devices to launch Distributed Denial of Service attacks that can cripple a network.

But everyday consumers aren’t the only ones tied to IoT devices that may be exposed to cyberattacks. The federal government also uses many IoT devices, such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone and BlackBerry Ltd.’s smartphones. Lawmakers have noticed the great threat posed by IoT devices with weak security, and have introduced legislation in the Senate and the House to improve IoT cybersecurity. 

At a recent House Subcommittee on Information Technology hearing, witnesses testified on ways to tweak the bills to ensure that the federal government uses the most secure IoT devices. In his introductory remarks, Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said that IoT devices need to be manufactured with security in mind, not as an afterthought. 

Software Alliance Senior Director of Policy Tommy Ross told the subcommittee that security must be calibrated against a specific risk, in order to properly improve cybersecurity measures. Ross also warned that the cybersecurity standards in the bills shouldn’t become the lowest bar, and instead, should seek to promote competition among IoT vendors.

WMware Chief Technology Officer Ray O’Farrell said that manufacturers that are doing a “good job” of securing devices should be rewarded. Ross agreed, saying that there needs to be incentives for companies to heighten the level of security on IoT devices.

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