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UK’s IoT security regulation will also include smartphones

Manufacturers will be required to inform consumers how long their device will receive security software updates

The UK’s IoT ‘Security by Design’ law, which aims to protect consumers from cyber attacks, will now also include smartphones.

The proposed regulation was initially expected to only cover Internet of Things (IoT) devices, due to the widespread lack of security controls associated with the devices, including easy-to-guess preset passwords.

A report commissioned by the government found that since the start of the pandemic, close to half (49%) of UK residents have purchased at least one smart device, such as an AI-powered smart speaker, video doorbell or phone-controlled light bulb. The research found that, although the products have the potential to improve consumers’ lives, they also make them especially vulnerable to cyber attacks. Due to the mass shift to remote working, they also pose a threat to businesses.

In a policy paper published today, the government announced that smartphones would also be included in the proposed ‘Secure By Design’ legislation. This will require manufacturers, such as smartphone giants Apple or Samsung, to inform consumers at the point of sale as to how long their will be eligible to receive security software updates, as well as provide a public point of contact to make it simpler to report a vulnerability.

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Commenting on the announcement, Digital Infrastructure minister Matt Warman said that “phones and smart devices can be a gold mine for hackers looking to steal data”, adding that, despite this, “a great number still run older software with holes in their security systems”.

“We are changing the law to ensure shoppers know how long products are supported with vital security updates before they buy and are making devices harder to break into by banning easily guessable default passwords," he said. "The reforms, backed by tech associations around the world, will torpedo the efforts of online criminals and boost our mission to build back safer from the pandemic."

The government announced that it’s seeking to introduce the ‘Security by Design’ law “as soon as parliamentary time allows”.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) technical director Dr Ian Levy urged manufacturers to “take responsibility” in order to “protect consumers and build trust across the sector”.

“Consumers are increasingly reliant on connected products at work and at home. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this trend and while manufacturers of these devices are improving security practices gradually, it is not yet good enough,” he said.

The news comes just days after security researchers warned of a slew of DNS flaws that could affect millions of IoT products, allowing attackers to target devices offline or take control of them.

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