IoT Devices To See New Security Guidelines In 2021

Jackson Lewis P.C.
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Setting up that new IoT device you received for Christmas? Maybe you’ve been derelict in feeding the dog and found a smart dog feeder under the tree, one that will alert you that Luna has been fed or that you have to refill the feeder. Smart gizmos are not just for the home, approximately 25% of businesses use Internet of Things (IoT) technology, a figure only expected to grow substantially. With that growth will be new and varied applications for IoT technology, along with a need to understand the different kinds of risks it presents. Earlier this month, on December 4, 2020, President Trump signed the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020 (Act). The Act is directed at federal agencies, but is likely to have a significant impact in the private sector as well.

Passed by the House in September 2020, the Act mandates a cybersecurity framework be created for the appropriate use and management by federal agencies of IoT devices owned or controlled by an agency and connected to information systems owned or controlled by an agency. Perhaps that most notable provision of the Act is for contractors of federal agencies and their subcontractors – effective two years from enactment, December 5, 2022, and subject to limited opportunities for a waiver, federal agencies will be:

“prohibited from procuring or obtaining, renewing a contract to procure or obtain, or using an Internet of Things device, if the Chief Information Officer of that agency determines during a review required by section 11319(b)(1)(C) of title 40, United States Code, of a contract for such device that the use of such device prevents compliance with the standards and guidelines developed under [the Act].

What are the Standards and Guidelines to be Developed under the Act?

Within 90 days following enactment, the Act requires the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop and publish standards and guidelines on the appropriate use and management by federal agencies of IoT devices they own or control and which are connected to information systems they own or control. Along with bearing in mind standards, guidelines, and best practices developed by the private sector, agencies, and public-private partnerships, the Director also must consider the following for IoT devices:

  • Secure Development.
  • Identity management.
  • Patching.
  • Configuration management.

In addition, within 180 days following enactment, the Director must publish guidelines for reporting, coordinating, publishing, and receiving of information about security vulnerabilities relating to information systems owned or controlled by an agency (including IoT devices) and resolving those vulnerabilities. The Director also must provide guidance for contractors and subcontractors on receiving information on potential information system vulnerabilities and disseminating information about resolutions.

What Does This Mean for IoT Devices?

For federal contractors and subcontractors, it will mean closely tracking and incorporating published security standards and guidelines by NIST, as well as being prepared to receive and act on information about potential security vulnerabilities received from federal agencies concerning devices and systems, and disseminate information on resolutions for those vulnerabilities. However, the Act also may establish recognized best practices for IoT devices, resulting broader adoption in the private sector. In the meantime, NIST has already started developing the standards and guidelines that will flow from the Act.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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