Biden Administration Launches Cybersecurity Label for Smart Home Devices

The U.S. government has created a new system to help consumers understand the cybersecurity risks associated with smart devices.

Countless goods now come with Internet-enabled technology that allows users to customize their experience and enjoy greater functionality. Devices such as watches, televisions and refrigerators are now all commonly connected to the Internet, but that has invariably opened the door for cyber criminals.

Anything that’s available online can be hacked, so buyers are now as interested in the cybersecurity of their smart devices as much as their functionality.

To help them, the Biden administration and major consumer technology firms have developed a nationwide cybersecurity certification and labeling program to help people understand which items offer them the greatest protection.

Speaking to reporters ahead of its formal unveiling, Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger said that the U.S Cyber Trust Mark “will allow Americans to confidently identify which Internet- and Bluetooth-connected devices are cybersecure.”

Meanwhile, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the program will give consumers “peace of mind” while also benefiting manufacturers whose products adhere to the government’s standards.

Is this necessary?

Cybersecurity experts have been quietly warning people about the security risks of smart devices for over a decade now. It appears that anything and everything is being connected to the Internet, often without due regard for security.

Although some of the technology makes sense, such as smart doorbells that let you see who is at your home while you’re away, other Internet-connected devices leave you scratching your head.

In those instances, the technology is at best redundant and at worst downright dangerous. In one famous case, a toy manufacturer that let parents upload recordings into a teddy bear to play for their children left customer files exposed online.

The company in question, Spiral Toys, downplayed the incident, which didn’t only involve 2.2 million voice recordings being leaked, but also enabled passersby to connect to the toy and send and receive audio – essentially turning it into a remote surveillance device.

These are the sorts of outcomes that can be expected when manufacturers don’t prioritize the security of their products, and why there has been growing demand for regulation.

Indeed, officials compared the Cyber Trust Mark to the Energy Star program, which is a system that rates appliances’ energy efficiency.

Both programs are voluntary, and they are designed to give consumers greater understanding of the consequences of their purchases.

Amazon, Best Buy, Google, LG Electronics USA, Logitech, and Samsung are among the manufacturers that are participating in the Cyber Trust Mark scheme.

It will apply to all types of smart devices, including baby monitors, home security cameras, fitness trackers, televisions, and refrigerators. Items that meet the U.S. government’s cybersecurity requirements – created by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) – will bear the ‘Cyber Trust’ label as early as next year.

The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is set to finalize the rules, while the Consumer Technology Association said that we could expect to see certification-ready products in its annual January show, CES 2024.