IoT Laws: Will the Internet of Things be the Next Digital Nightmare for America?


Lately, the buzz on the next big stage of the Internet has been the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT).  The Internet of Things is the interconnection of devices, allowing for constant upload and download of data, via the Internet.  Everyday gadgets (e.g., coffee makers, refrigerators, laundry machines, etc.) that were previously considered “dumb,” or unable to connect to the Internet, will have wireless capability that allows them to connect to the Internet.

IoT in Healthcare

Most news about the forthcoming Internet of Things in healthcare has been positive.  Proponents often discuss how the Internet of Things will improve healthcare by allowing devices such as wheelchairs or pacemakers to provide real-time data to caretakers.  The headlining news about the Internet of Things is often about how it will inevitably improve the average citizen’s life. But, what about IoT Laws?

Issues with IoT Security

Two U.S. senators, however, disagree by citing hacking incidents, specifically an incident last year where hackers were able to use the burgeoning IoT to conduct a denial-of-service attack, which denied access to popular websites such as Twitter and Spotify through “newly” smart devices like fitness trackers and thermostats.

Although the attack was not largescale or long enough to cause widespread panic, lawmakers in Congress still took note.  U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D. Virginia) and Cory Gardner (R. Colorado) have spearheaded a new bill that is designed to set new standards for smart devices. 

IoT Laws for Security

Deemed the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017, the measure is aimed at creating national security standards for any tools or gadgets that access the Internet and are sold to federal agencies.

This has long been coming.  Studies have found that federal agencies have already spent approximately $4 billion on smart devices between the years 2011 and 2015.  For example, the Department of Agriculture relies heavily on soil sensors, and the Department of Defense has often deployed wearables to their service members who travel abroad.

As such, it is important to note that the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017 only addresses devices sold to federal agencies.  It will offer no respite to consumers.  In its current form, the bill only applies to technology contractors or companies that sell these wearables and gadgets to the U.S. government, but Warner notes that positive results from the bill may spur similar bill creation for consumer protection.

Since it appears that it may be some time before consumers and private industries receive the same sort of protection, it would behoove companies and consumers alike to consult cybersecurity counsel about potential security risks surrounding the Internet of Things.  Savvy companies should consider hiring experienced counsel to conduct due diligence about any wearables or smart devices they are considering deploying in the future.  Similarly, private consumers may want to consult experienced counsel about potential network risks when they begin to digitize sensitive data on home networks or when wiring their houses to become “smart.”

For more information on this topic, please visit our cybersecurity service page, which is part of our Technology & Data Practice.

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