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US Announces Program to Identify Safe Smart Devices

3D printed models of people working on computers and padlock are seen in front of a displayed CYBER ATTACK and binary code in this picture illustration taken, February 1, 2022. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)
3D printed models of people working on computers and padlock are seen in front of a displayed CYBER ATTACK and binary code in this picture illustration taken, February 1, 2022. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)
US Announces Program to Identify Safe Smart Devices
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The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has announced a new program to identify smart devices that are better equipped to resist internet attacks.

The effort is designed to help the public decide which devices in the marketplace carry the best protection against possible cyberattacks.

The program will issue a “U.S. Cyber Trust Mark” to the most protected devices, the administration said in a statement Tuesday. The effort will be carried out by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“The goal of the program is to provide tools for consumers to make informed decisions about the relative security of products they choose to bring into their homes,” the statement added.

FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel explained the program would cover a wide range of smart devices including climate control systems, televisions, microwaves and fitness trackers. Such devices are part of the “internet of things,” which officials warn could present increased cybersecurity threats.

Several manufacturers have voluntarily agreed “to increase cybersecurity for the products they sell,” the Biden administration said. These companies include Amazon, Best Buy, Google, LG Electronics USA, Logitech and Samsung Electronics.

The FCC is expected to seek public comment on the program before giving its final approval and officially launching it. Officials said the public should start seeing product identifications, or labels, sometime in 2024.

The safety level of products is to be rated by quality requirements, or standards, created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These guidelines call for products to require unique and strong passwords, data protection measures and software improvements. In addition, the devices should have built-in tools to identify when cyberattacks are attempted.

The effort will be similar to the Energy Star program, which currently labels products to show that they save energy. Labeled devices would also include QR codes to provide additional information to consumers. Officials said the products will be reexamined yearly to make sure they meet requirements.

In March, the Biden administration launched a national cyber campaign. The campaign called on software manufacturers and companies to increase efforts to protect their products against cyberattacks.

The increase of smart devices on the market has happened as the number of cybercrimes has increased. Internet attacks on personal devices can give criminals a way into home computer networks.

The amount of dangerous software aimed at internet-of-things devices rose sharply in 2022, cybersecurity company SonicWall has estimated. Many of the attacks happened in North America.

The FCC’s Rosenworcel said consumers can now “have peace of mind that the products that they're bringing into their homes adhere to widely accepted security and privacy standards."

An April report from cybersecurity company Bitdefender estimated the least secure devices were smart televisions, followed by smart plugs, routers and digital video recorders.

Internationally, the U.S. Department of State will seek to persuade allies and partners to cooperate to establish similar labeling efforts, the White House statement said.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story based on reports from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and the White House.

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Words in This Story

cyberattack – n. an internet attack against a computer network or electronic device

consumer – n. someone who buys or uses goods or services

tracker – n. an electronic device or piece of software that records information about your physical activity

QR code – n. a symbol printed on something that can be read some devices to provide additional information to the device user

adhere – v. to keep firmly to a particular position

plug – n. a small piece of plastic or rubber with metal pins that is used to connect electronic devices to power openings in the wall

router – n. a piece of electronic equipment that connects computer networks to each other and also sends information between networks

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