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IoT Security: The Cyber Trust Mark Program

December 19, 2023 No Comments

by Jeff Broth

On the 18th of July 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a new cybersecurity labeling program for smart devices. This new method of categorizing devices was one step in a series of initiatives that the President has released to tackle the rising cyber threat across the USA.

This announcement culminated with the release of the US Cyber Trust Mark, which recommended a new way of categorizing IoT devices to increase the baseline level of cybersecurity defense that consumers can expect from their products. The thought process behind releasing this initiative is to make manufacturers more conscious about the steps they should take to secure their products before releasing them onto the shelves.

In this article, we’ll turn to the USA’s Cyber Trust Mark, touching on how it works, what it does, and how consumers can use it to stay safer when buying smart devices. Let’s dive right in.

What is the Cyber Trust Mark?

The Cyber Trust Mark program will roll out easy-to-identify stickers and labels that manufacturers will have to place on IoT devices. By passing a minimum of security requirements and regulations, manufacturers will be able to put the sticker on the packaging of their product. Then, when a consumer is looking for a product that has a good level of security defense, they will be able to identify the products that have the sticker and buy them.

The program will follow in the footsteps of the highly successful Energy Star logo. The mark will create a recognizable shield that instantly alerts people to the security considerations that a manufacturer has made when creating their product.

There are various criteria that manufacturers need to follow when creating and releasing IoT products. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has struck the balance between technical areas of improvement and software updates. All IoT products must follow these standards to gain the badge:

– Data protection integrations.

– Asset identification and documentation.

– Interface user control and access control.

– Regular security updates to protect against vulnerabilities.

– Provide widely available information for users about usage, product education, and threat awareness.

While not an exhaustive list, these represent the general indications and the overall direction that the security standard has taken.

Why Has the Cyber Trust Mark Been Established?

The Cyber Trust Mark comes as a vital part of a strong national security ecosystem. Typically, both manufacturers and consumers overlook how critical IoT devices, especially smart devices and systems, can be to security. The IoT market is rapidly growing and is set to reach over 30.9 billion in 2025.

Yet, smart fridges, houses, and devices are commonly thought of as inconsequential. Due to this, consumers rarely put passwords on them, leaving them perfectly open for malicious actors to target. Over time, IoT devices have become a weak point in many security systems.

For laptops and computers, we spare no expense when securing them from threats. Yet, for our other devices, we ignore them as we don’t see them as at risk, even though they connect directly to the same systems that we want to protect. The Cyber Trust Mark is trying to directly fight against this by increasing every connected device’s level of security.

This effort will ensure that manufacturers build products with security in mind while also teaching the general consumer more about baseline security defenses with an easy-to-recognize system.

How Will the Cyber Trust Mark Improve Cyber Security?

It may seem strange that one small sticker is forecast to have such a big impact on the general level of cybersecurity awareness from consumers and the commitment from manufacturers. Yet, the Energy Star program has had a profound impact on its target market, with this new initiative hoping to have a similar impact on the world of cyber security.

Across the board, the Cyber Trust Mark will attempt to improve the following areas:

Consciousness – The vast majority of consumers would buy an IoT device without ever thinking of its level of cyber security. As this is a topic that doesn’t cross the mind of the general public on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that many simply don’t think about it. A small sticker will bring cyber security to the forefront of their mind and improve public consciousness.

Compliance – IoT devices have always been on the back burner when it comes to national security. They’re not quite as flashy as some of the other majority cyber security events that could occur, so they are often forgotten. Now, regulatory bodies all around the world are turning their attention to IoT devices. For example, those in the EU need to follow new compliance for IoT devices or could face fines of several million euros.

Certification Standard – By creating a list of effective standards that businesses must follow when launching a device, NISA has effectively created an opt-in standard. Creating a minimum standard ensures that the vast majority of manufacturers will now start to implement all of the required steps and components to make their products safe. For those who don’t want to fall behind their competitors, this new standard will be something to pay attention to and follow.

This new cyber security trust mark will only be a small change but will have rippling positive effects for the entire security industry.

Final Thoughts

President Biden’s administration is taking steps in the right direction when it comes to improving the general level of cybersecurity awareness across the country. Most manufacturers would shy away from hard regulations. Instead, these recommendations that are publicly visible to customers will increase sales for compliant products and decrease them for those that don’t make the cut.

By pandering to this need for companies to generate profit from their products, the Biden administration has been able to implement a powerful self-regulation and tagging system. Over time, a higher general awareness from both manufacturers and consumers will drive up baseline levels of cyber security protection.

The Cyber Trust Mark is a great step toward a more effective, security-conscious tomorrow.

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