UK.gov emits draft IoT and smartphone security law for Parliamentary scrutiny

Mandatory vuln reporting, hefty fines for non-compliance


A new British IoT product security law is racing through the House of Commons, with the government boasting it will outlaw default admin passwords and more.

The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure (PSTI) Bill was introduced yesterday and is intended to drive up security standards in consumer tech gadgetry, ranging from IoT devices to phones, fondleslabs, smart TVs, and so on.

Digital infrastructure minister Julia Lopez MP said in a canned statement: "Our Bill will put a firewall around everyday tech from phones and thermostats to dishwashers, baby monitors and doorbells, and see huge fines for those who fall foul of tough new security standards."

The new law has been years in the making and follows lots of international wailing and gnashing of teeth over non-existent minimum security standards for Internet of Things devices – which both the US and European Union (along with the UK) are tackling. Yet the bill as drafted will apply to mobile phones and similar smart devices too.

David Rogers, chairman of the GSMA's Fraud and Security Group and author of the UK's 2018 Code of Practice on IoT Security, hailed the PSTI Bill as "absolutely crucial".

"We knew there was market failure already," he told The Register, referring to the problem of default admin passwords being freely published online, giving cybercrims an open goal when pwning exposed devices. "But there was an opportunity, really, for industry to sort of deal with the situation. And it was quite clear that actually, the opposite was happening. There was pushback, and people didn't want to do stuff."

Other industry figures, most notably former National Cyber Security Centre chief Ciaran Martin, have spoken approvingly of the government's explicitly interventionist stance on securing devices used in their millions by non-techie people.

The bill imposes duties on consumer product manufacturers to comply with security standards laid down by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

It will also force manufacturers to "take all reasonable steps to investigate" if a vulnerability is reported to them – and to fix such vulns. Manufacturers will also have to disclose vulns to importers, distributors and government officials, as well as customers.

As for enforcement of these new regs, UK.gov isn't messing around. A government statement said: "This new cyber security regime will be overseen by a regulator, which will be designated once the Bill comes into force, and will have the power to fine companies for non-compliance up to £10 million or four per cent of their global turnover, as well as up to £20,000 a day in the case of an ongoing contravention."

Other parts of the bill deal with telecoms infrastructure laws, including changes to the controversial Telecommunications Infrastructure Code, which sets out who can plant mobile masts on other people's land and how much the landowner gets paid for that.

The draft bill can be viewed here [72-page PDF]. It is now subject to normal Parliamentary debate and amendment, which The Register will be following.

Smartphone security's a hot topic

In related news, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) released a new smartphone security standard, ETSI TI 103 732. This focuses on security of user data and improving privacy in smartphones.

"The new ETSI standard specifies security requirements for consumer mobile devices. It ensures the protection of key user data such as photos, videos, user location, emails, SMS, calls, passwords for web services, and fitness related data," said the institute in a statement. ®

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