Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill introduced to UK parliament

New law will impose new security standards on manufacturers, importers and distributors of connected technologies

According to the UK government, the ownership and use of connected tech products have increased dramatically in recent years. On average there are nine in every UK household, with forecasts suggesting there could be up to 50 billion worldwide by 2030. People overwhelmingly assume these products are secure, but only one in five manufacturers have appropriate security measures in place for their connectable products. Cyber criminals are increasingly targeting these products. A recent investigation by Which? found a home filled with smart devices could be exposed to more than 12,000 hacking or unknown scanning attacks from across the world in a single week.

Therefore, the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill has been introduced to the UK Parliament.  It includes:

  • A ban on easy-to-guess default passports that come preloaded on devices - such as ‘password’ or ‘admin’ - which are a target for hackers. All passwords that come with new devices will need to be unique and not resettable to any universal factory setting.
  • A requirement for connectable product manufacturers to tell customers at the point of sale, and keep them updated, about the minimum amount of time a product will receive vital security updates and patches. If a product does not come with security updates that must be disclosed. This will increase people’s awareness about when the products they buy could become vulnerable so they can make better informed purchasing decisions. 
  • New rules that require manufacturers to provide a public point of contact to make it simpler for security researchers and others to report when they discover flaws and bugs in products.

The Bill places duties on in-scope businesses to investigate compliance failures, produce statements of compliance, and maintain appropriate records of this.

Enforcement

The new cyber security regime will be overseen by a regulator, which will be designated once the Bill comes into force, and will have the power to fine companies for non-compliance up to £10 million or four per cent of their global turnover, as well as up to £20,000 a day in the case of an ongoing contravention.

The regulator will also be able to issue notices to companies requiring that they comply with the security requirements, recall their products, or stop selling or supplying them altogether. As new threats emerge or standards develop, ministers will have the power to mandate further security requirements for companies to follow via secondary legislation.

Scope

The new laws will apply not only to manufacturers, but also to other businesses including both physical shops and online retailers which enable the sale of millions of cheap tech imports into the UK.

Retailers will be forbidden from selling products to UK customers unless they meet the security requirements and will be required to pass important information about security updates on to customers.

The Bill applies to ‘connectable’ products, which includes all devices that can access the internet - such as smartphones, smart TVs, games consoles, security cameras and alarm systems, smart toys and baby monitors, smart home hubs and voice-activated assistants and smart home appliances such as washing machines and fridges.

It also applies to products that can connect to multiple other devices but not directly to the internet. Examples include smart light bulbs, smart thermostats and wearable fitness trackers.

The government intends to exempt some products - for instance, where it would subject them to double regulation or not lead to material improvements in product or user security. This includes vehicles, smart meters, electric vehicle charging points and medical devices.

Desktop and laptop computers are not in scope because they are served by a mature antivirus software market, unlike smart speakers and other emerging consumer tech. Operating systems on laptops and PCs already include security features which means they are not subject to the same threats and risks.

Second-hand connectable products will be exempt due to the impractical obligations that including them would put on consumers and businesses disproportionate to the likely benefits. However, the Bill gives ministers powers to extend the scope of the Bill as cyber threats and risks change in future.

Published: 2021-11-26T10:00:00

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