UK.gov dangles £400k over makers of IoT Things: Go on, let’s see how you’d make a security cert scheme

British companies have been offered access to a £400k pot of cash to design a UK-specific “kitemark” assurance scheme for Internet of Things products.

The government grant scheme is intended to complement previous announcements, making it a legal requirement that IoT devices ship with unique, non-default passwords and for vendors to “explicitly state” for how long security updates will be published.

Referring to an “assurance label or kitemark,” the detailed government guidance on the new grant scheme said: “In a sector where consumers overwhelmingly assume that devices are secure because they are for sale, these assurance schemes are vital in enabling consumers to make security-conscious purchasing decisions.”

The Ministry of Fun* declared that it wants a multitude of “industry-led” assurance schemes rather than just one, a move that may help promote market competition and tackle the wide range of devices falling under the IoT label.

Ex-tech journalist Matt Warman, now a Conservative MP and minister for all things digital, said in a canned statement: “This new funding will allow shoppers to be sure the products they are buying have better cyber security and help retailers be confident they are stocking secure smart products.”

Meanwhile, Slovakian infosec firm Eset’s Jake Moore, a UK security specialist, was a bit more cagey about the plan. He said, in a statement: “This comes at a time when IoT seems to have been forgotten about, yet funding to support the security of such devices couldn’t be more vital… Hopefully this will be the beginning of more funding as I’m not sure how far this initial input will go.”

More information about the grants, including details of how to apply, are available on GOV.UK.

Internet of Things devices are, as Reg readers know, broadly speaking, smart gadgets. They range from little gizmos like wireless thermometers right up to sensors in industrial control units. Most IoT device traffic is unencrypted, as one analysis found earlier this year. ®

Bootnote

Kitemarks are the old British Standard marking. Most British Standards were carbon-copied into EU law under the BS EN (European Norm) nomenclature and the 20th century kitemark has all but fallen into disuse, though it may make a resurgence in the post-Brexit era, like blue passports. UK.gov’s use of the word “kitemark” in its detailed guidance may not be a slip of the tongue.

* Department for Culture, Media and Sport. ®

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