Tech and Science

Biden administration unveils new consumer label for smart home devices

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That new smart device you’ve been eyeing for your home may soon come with a label that includes information about whether it meets U.S. cybersecurity standards.

On Tuesday, the White House unveiled the “U.S. Cyber Trust Mark,” which is aimed at making it easier for consumers to determine if a smart home product and its connections meet certain cybersecurity criteria set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The new consumer labeling effort is being compared to the “Energy Star” label that describes a product’s energy efficiency. The Energy Star program has been in place since 1992, with thousands of utilities, state and local goverments and other organizations involved, and the program’s website claims over 90% of American households recognize the label.  

The White House is hoping the new shield-shaped label will gain similar traction with American consumers amid growing concern over security vulnerabilities that exist among “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices. Officials worry hackers or nation states could seek to exploit vulnerabilities in smart home devices to steal personal data or wreak havoc on computer systems. The overall purpose of the program is to inform consumers about the security of the smart devices, like baby monitors, smart door locks, smart TVs and thermostats. The voluntary program offers an incentive for IoT companies to beef up security for their devices, but experts warn the label alone isn’t enough.

 “You can’t slap a label on a smart device and think you’ve solved cybersecurity [issues],” said Justin Sherman who is a non-resident fellow for the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative. “You’re never going to have a perfectly secure device ever. And these technologies always change, [so] even the label — you’re going to have to update the label.”

Sherman added that the labeling program could create an incentive for more companies to join. The cybersecurity labeling effort is voluntary, and so far, major tech giants like Google, Amazon, LG Electronics U.S.A, Samsung, Logitech and electronics retailer Best Buy are participating in the program. The White House says 20 companies have joined the effort, which was spurred by executive action from the Biden administration in 2021.

The cyber trust mark program will undergo a formal Federal Communications Commission rule-making process and the White House expects the labels to start rolling out in late 2024. 

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