Cybersecurity

Shopping for tech could get a whole lot simpler under this new cybersecurity program

The FCC’s Cyber Trust Mark will improve gadget quality control
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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Your next Wi-Fi router, smart doorbell, or wireless speaker just might come with a virtual nutrition label for security stats.

A first-of-its-kind cybersecurity labeling initiative, floated by the Federal Communications Commission last week, aims to help buyers sift through the empty calories of potentially risky gadgets and make more informed decisions about the connected devices they bring home.

The Cyber Trust Mark would aim to incentivize manufacturers to comply with widely recognized best practices developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the FCC said, such as strong standard passwords and routine software updates. If adopted by the full agency, the logo could be used in product branding as early as next year, according to the commission.

The seals could appear on devices ranging from smart appliances like refrigerators, microwaves, and thermostats to ubiquitous consumer devices like TVs and fitness trackers, the Biden administration said in its July 18 announcement. Even though the program is in its infancy, major tech sellers including Amazon, Best Buy, Google, LG, Logitech, and Samsung Electronics have already agreed to participate, the White House said.

The proposal emulates the success of the “Energy Star” logo on products such as appliances that meet federal energy-efficiency standards, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in prepared remarks. The cybersecurity shield-like logo would be accompanied by a QR code that shoppers can scan to learn more about the product’s specifications.

“The Cyber Trust Mark will help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions about device privacy and security. So when you need a baby monitor or new home appliance, you will be able to look for the Cyber Trust Mark and shop with greater confidence,” she said.

Consumer-grade wi-fi routers will get special attention from the feds at the outset, as they’re “a higher-risk type of product that, if compromised, can be used to eavesdrop, steal passwords, and attack other devices and high value networks,” according to the White House. NIST is tasked with outlining specific cybersecurity requirements for these devices before the end of the year so they can be included in the Cyber Trust Mark rollout. The Department of Energy said it will also undertake new research to develop cybersecurity labeling requirements for products like smart meters and power inverters.

As for next steps, Rosenworcel’s FCC colleagues must vote to approve the initial Cyber Trust Mark program and kick off a public comment period about its parameters. “The future of smart devices is big,” said Rosenworcel. “And even bigger is the opportunity for us to ensure that every consumer, business, and every bank with a vending machine can make smart choices about the connected devices they use.”

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to cloud computing, IT Brew covers the latest trends shaping business tech in our 4x weekly newsletter, virtual events with industry experts, and digital guides.