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Industry Participants Discuss Security, Benefits of Internet-Connected Devices

Experts weighed the benefits and risks of internet-connected devices.

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Harold Feld, Jennifer Manner, Eric Tamarkin, Katerina Megas, Melanie Tiano and Mike Bergman

WASHINGTON, December 8, 2021 – Wireless industry leaders debated the security and benefits of Internet of Things devices at an event on Tuesday.

Many in-home appliances currently on the market, such as washing machines and refrigerators, are connected to the internet, which opens it up to hacking.

During a Federal Communications Bar Association event Tuesday, Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, expressed concern over this trend in the consumer market.

Since prominent hacks of Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS USA occurred earlier this year, information has surfaced showing hackers may have gained access to the companies’ systems through vulnerabilities in their IoT devices.

Feld stated that for those concerned about security flaws in the appliances they buy, it is hard to find devices on the market that do not have internet connectivity. Further, he stated that even if concerned customers were to disable the Wi-Fi features on their appliances, the appliances would not work as well.

During the panel discussion, Eric Tamarkin, senior public policy counsel at Samsung, expressed hesitance to Feld’s concerns.

He stated that because connected devices using IoT were such a lifeblood for Americans during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, they are and should continue to be used as essential tools for all sorts of day-to-day activities.

Many panelists felt it was important to acknowledge Tamarkin’s point that IoT technology is beneficial, but also stated that IoT system security should continue to be viewed as a work in progress. Katerina Megas, program manager for cybersecurity at the National Institute for Standards and Technology, specifically highlighted the benefits IoT has had for the U.S. economy.

Several panelists also felt that security risks involved with IoT use are compounded by risks of artificial intelligence, creating significant cause for concern with regards to employing IoT technology. They emphasized that cooperation between industry and government is essential to combat concerns over use of this technology.

Reporter T.J. York received his degree in political science from the University of Southern California. He has experience working for elected officials and in campaign research. He is interested in the effects of politics in the tech sector.

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Cybersecurity

CES 2023: Consumers Need to Understand Personal Cybersecurity, Says White House Cyber Official

Consumers must better understand how to weigh risks and protect themselves in the digital world, said Camille Stewart Gloster.

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Photo of John Mitchell, Tobin Richardson, Amit Elazari, and Camille Stewart Gloster (left to right)

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – In addition to building a more robust cybersecurity workforce, policymakers should consider consumer education, said Camille Stewart Gloster, deputy national cyber director for technology and ecosystem for the White House, speaking Saturday at the Consumer Electronics Show.

CES 2023 has featured numerous discussions of cybersecurity in sectors ranging from transportation to Internet of Things home devices. On Thursday, an official from the Department of Homeland Security argued that manufactures should design and pre-configure devices to be secure, thus reducing the security burden on consumers.

For their own protection, consumers must better understand how to weigh risks and protect themselves in the digital world, Stewart Gloster said Saturday. “The sooner that people understand that their physical security and digital security are inextricably linked the better,” she argued. According to the panel’s moderator, Consumer Technology Association senior manager for government affairs John Mitchell, 82 percent of data breaches in 2021 involved “the human element, stolen credentials, phishing, misuse.”

Stewart Gloster’s team is working on a national cyber-workforce and education strategy, she said, which will address the federal cyber workforce, the national cyber workforce, cyber education, and “digital safety awareness.”

Stewart Gloster said workforce initiatives should promote the participation of “people of a diverse set of backgrounds who are highly skilled and multidisciplinary who can take a look at the problem space, who can apply their lived experiences, apply the things they’ve observed, apply their academic backgrounds to a challenging and ever evolving landscape.”

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Cybersecurity

CES 2023: Cybersecurity for IoT Devices Should be Market-Driven

NIST’s cybersecurity guidelines for IoT prescribe desired outcomes, rather than specific and ‘brittle’ standards.

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Michael Bergman (left) and Katerina Megas

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2023 – Cybersecurity protocols for Internet of Things devices should be industry-driven, Katerina Megas, program manager of the Cybersecurity for Internet of Things Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show 2023.

The popularization of IoT devices gives cyber-criminals increasing opportunities to breach networks, many say. Network-connected household devices – e.g., lightbulbs and home security devices – can be entry-points if security protocols are lacking. On CES panel on Thursday, a cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security argued that manufacturers should design and preset devices to be safe, shifting much of the burden from the consumer.

“For a long-term, sustainable solution, the best approach really is for demand to be market driven,” she said, adding that NIST is “happy” to support the market when called on. To preserve flexibility, NIST’s cybersecurity guidelines for IoT manufacturers in general prescribed desired outcomes, rather than specific and “brittle” standards, Megas said.

“How you achieve those [outcomes] will vary depending on the maturity of your organization, the architecture of your product, perhaps preferences that you might have for you own internal processes,” she explained.

Megas said manufacturers, who well know their devices’ technical capabilities, often lack an understanding of how consumers actually use their devices. Megas said she has examined how to “help a manufacturer who has no insights into the final contextual use of this product, how can we help them…understand, ‘Here are the risks associated with my device.’”

At an American Enterprise Institute panel held in November, Megas endorsed an “ecosystem approach” to cybersecurity, arguing that network security is also indispensable.

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Cybersecurity

CES 2023: Railroad Industry Needs Cybersecurity Update

Shawn Smith advocated heavily tailored, industry-specific approaches that can address to the unique needs of the rail industry.

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Photo of Shawn Smith, vice president of business development of Cylus

LAS VEGAS, January 5, 2023 – To keep pace with today’s technological innovations and cyberthreats, the railway industry must retool its cybersecurity defenses, said Shawn Smith, vice president of business development of rail cybersecurity company Cylus.

The railway industry is working to patch old vulnerabilities as well as the new ones that have been create by developing technologies, Smith told Broadband Breakfast at the Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday. The need for enhanced cybersecurity has been a recurring theme at the conference, as have the implications of the ever increasing number of devices and technologies now relying on connectivity.

“We’re really fast-tracking an operator’s ability to keep pace with the change in the digital environment that they’re operating in (and) the interconnectivity that they’re seeing,” Smith said, adding that his team works to provide “visibility, threat detection, and response capability to keep pace with the change in their organizations.”

Smith said that many of the large rail players have developed responses for some cybersecurity risks, but lack the automation and planning tools necessary to maximize their effectiveness. He advocated heavily tailored, industry-specific approaches that can address to the unique needs of the industry.

Governments and industry players worldwide have of late been on high alert for cyberthreats, particularly since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Railways, like other infrastructure, are potential targets for nefarious actors, Smith said.

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