The White House aims to help consumers choose products better protected from cyberattacks. The Biden-Harris administration recently proposed a cybersecurity certification and labeling program for smart devices known as the “U.S. Cyber Trust Mark” program. Announced by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel earlier this week, the main goals of the program are to foster informed purchasing decisions, differentiate products in the marketplace, and create incentives for more manufacturers to enhance their cybersecurity practices.
In an FCC press release, Rosenworcel noted that the initiative could mitigate some of the increased security and privacy risks that come with smart devices. She said, “This voluntary program, which would build on work by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, industry, and researchers, would raise awareness of cybersecurity by helping consumers make smart choices about the devices they bring into their homes, just like the Energy Star program did when it was created to bring attention to energy-efficient appliances and encourage more companies to produce them in the marketplace.”
The announcement comes as the federal government plays a greater role in addressing emerging cybersecurity threats. The White House released its National Cybersecurity Strategy Implementation Plan, which provides extensive directives for federal agencies to accomplish the goals of the National Cybersecurity Strategy. Congress is taking part in the effort as well: a recent U.S. House hearing raised concerns over the mounting risk of a China-based cyberattack on the power grid, while a June hearing focused on resolving the cybersecurity workforce shortage.
Under the program, which could commence as early as next year, consumers would see a “U.S. Cyber Trust Mark” shield logo applied to products like smart refrigerators, microwaves, televisions, thermostats, and fitness trackers. Products with the logo would have met established cybersecurity criteria as prescribed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Some requirements include unique and strong default passwords, data protection, software updates, and incident detection capabilities.
The initiative would take on a whole-of-government approach, with action from multiple federal agencies and departments. The FCC and CISA would encourage consumers to look out for the new label and push major U.S. retailers to market labeled products. The FCC would also use a QR code that links to a national registry of certified devices and work with the Department of Justice to establish oversight protections.
NIST would begin defining the cybersecurity criteria for routers so that these products are included in the new initiative. This work is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Likewise, the Department of Energy would work with National Labs to define the criteria for smart meters and power inverters.
In the global arena, the Department of State would partner with allies so that similar labeling efforts are undertaken across the globe.
The initiative now goes to a vote before the commission. If adopted, it would be issued for public comment. The proposal seeks input on questions like the scope of devices that should be included in the program and who should lead oversight.
Several companies have already pledged to upgrade their products’ cybersecurity in preparation for the program. They include Amazon, Best Buy, Google, LG, Logitech, and Samsung.