House bill looks to secure IoT ecosystem

Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), the ranking member of the IT Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is looking to help improve the security and oversight of the emerging internet-of-things ecosystem.

A discussion draft of Kelly's Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act 2017 would tighten standards on connected devices purchased by the U.S. government.

The bill tracks closely with a Senate bill of the same name introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). That bill focuses on eliminating the problem of hard-coded, unchangeable passwords on connected devices and looks for vendors to make updates available wirelessly online.

One difference is that Kelly's bill provides for an Emerging Technologies Advisory Board "to be led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and include members from the Department of Homeland Security, the National Technology and Information Administration, the General Services Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and representatives from private industry, nonprofits and academia."

"Technology and security best practices change quickly, and we must be able to adapt just as quickly to address and counter these threats," Kelly told FCW. "The board will be tasked with reviewing and providing updated guidances and waiving required guidance, in part or in whole, based on changing conditions."

With the proliferation of connected devices, the urgency for reform has only increased, especially when it comes to government procurement, Kelly said at an Oct. 3 hearing on cybersecurity.

"Compromised devices can become access points for malicious actors to gain entry to the federal government’s networks, she said. Her bill would "bake security into the procurement process," she said.

Additionally, the bill lays the groundwork for new disclosure requirements for vendors supplying the government with connected devices. Kelly said her goal is not to overregulate the acquisition process, noting that "sector-specific regulators will devise more precise rules to address the unique risks to each sector."

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