IoT security: How we are keeping consumers safe from cyber threats

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

  • The lack of consensus around consumer IoT standards has raised concerns about security, privacy, interoperability, and equity.
  • A multistakeholder coalition worked together to agree on IoT security requirements for consumer-facing devices.
  • More than 100 organizations are calling on some of the world’s biggest manufacturers and vendors to take action for better IoT security.

The impact.

When you strap on your smart watch or speak to your smart home devices you engage with the Internet of Things (IoT), but by doing so might you also be welcoming hackers into your life?

A first-time multistakeholder collaboration convened by the World Economic Forum has recognized the risks, and formed a global consensus for baseline IoT security measures to protect consumers.

Through the Council on the Connected World a multistakeholder community worked together over 6 months to agree on five IoT security requirements for consumer-facing devices:

  • Must not have universal default passwords
  • Must keep software updated
  • Must have secure communication
  • Must ensure that personal data is secure
  • Must implement a vulnerability disclosure policy

The community has called on some of the world’s biggest manufacturers and vendors to take action for better IoT security. Their Statement of Support has been endorsed by more than 100 organizations from across stakeholder groups – including leading technology companies, industry organizations, civil society groups, and government cybersecurity agencies.

These include: Arçelik, Arm, AstraZeneca, BlocPower, BrainBox AI, Check Point Software Technologies, Deloitte, Fluxus, Google, Graymatics, HCL Technologies, HumanFirst, Kudelski, Microsoft, NEC, NTT, Qualcomm, QuintessenceLabs, SENSORO, Signify, Trinity Mobility, Unitel, the UK Government’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sports (DCMS), the Cyber Threat Alliance and many others.

“As we look to new technologies to help address pressing global challenges – from climate change to rapid urbanization – we must ensure this progress does not come at a cost to individual safety and privacy.” — Jeff Merritt, Head of Urban Transformation, World Economic Forum

What’s the challenge?

IoT applications such as connected thermal cameras, contact tracing devices and health-monitoring wearables are providing critical data needed to help fight COVID-19 while temperature sensors and parcel tracking will help ensure that sensitive vaccines are distributed safely. Yet the use of IoT in fighting the pandemic has also raised concerns about security, privacy, interoperability and equity.

The global consumer IoT market is forecasted to reach $154 Billion USD by 2028. As the use of connected devices increases, so does the potential for cyber threats – particularly as new products introduce vulnerabilities, potentially exposing people to hacking or leaks of personal data.

Products in the home can be exposed to more than 12,000 hacking attempts in a single week. Smaller, and cost-sensitive items, with a range of different user interfaces often lack the security features of traditional computer products like laptops and smartphones.

Our approach for improving IoT security and keeping consumers safe.

The Council on the Connected World formed in 2019 to strengthen global governance and innovation of IoT. The group exists to maximize the positive benefits, and minimize harm, for all of society.

At the inaugural meeting of the Council, members began working on a comprehensive report that identified and prioritized major governance gaps across the IoT security ecosystem and showcased promising policy initiatives.

Next, the group studied the most critical challenges identified in the report, and created a global action plan focusing on:

  • Increasing education
  • Improving security
  • Driving positive impact
  • Combatting inequity
  • Strengthening collaboration

“Microsoft is excited to support this effort to raise awareness and advance best practices throughout the industry, as well as to encourage cooperation across stakeholder groups to advance the security of consumer products including the services and platforms they are built on.”— Rob Spiger, Principal Security Strategist, Digital Diplomacy, Microsoft

“By endorsing these five key responsibilities, the organizations that have signed on are sending a clear message about minimum acceptable standards. Most importantly it is setting a baseline that I hope will unify the industry approach leading to better security for all consumers worldwide.”
— Marc Rogers, Vice-President, Cybersecurity, Okta

Get involved.

Businesses, government agencies, civil society and academic networks all have a valuable role to play in protecting consumers and making the action plan a reality.

We welcome businesses and NGOs to nominate an initiative to be part of the action plan and contribute expertise and resources to an existing initiative. Every initiative has listed a goal that the international community can help facilitate.

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