Draft Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Act of 2017

The Draft IOT Cybersecurity Act of 2017: According to an article in the National Law Review, this draft legislation was introduced by Senators Mark Warner, Cory Gardner, Ron Wyden, and Steve Daines. The purpose of the legislation is to entice IoT vendors to implement the following designs into their products:

  • the ability to patch devices;
  • a commitment to withholding devices from market if they contain known vulnerabilities;
  • implement standard/known network protocols; and
  • refrain from using hard-coded passwords on these devices

This legislation would mandate that government procurement would be limited to vendors/products that meet these requirements (possibility of case-by-case waivers does exist).  Thus, rather than imposing broad regulations across the IoT landscape, this would target anyone interested in reaching the vast government market. Various industry insiders and cyber experts have given positive feedback on this proposed legislation, as the consensus seems to be that this will help entice vendors to make their IoT devices more secure so that these enhancements would be manifest across the public and private sectors.


I get the value in doing something rather than doing nothing, and I have been on the “IoT is insecure” bandwagon for some time now.  However, I still can’t help but think that this is beginning to feel like a piecemeal approach to security and privacy. If we continue to focus on specific industries, or devices, or vendors we run the risk of losing sight of the bigger picture.  Personally, I believe we need to focus on data-centric security policies and stop trying to think about edge or network security as the primary points of vulnerability.  I would argue that if we focus on the data and privacy we can then design comprehensive architectures that are purpose-built to safeguard that which we hold most important and critical.  Yes, edge security and firewalls are going to be a component of that, as will encryption and information silos, along with access control and secure protocols, as well as knowledge transfer and training.  However, it is important to keep our eye on the prize, the crown jewels, if you will — the data itself, rather than the medium upon which it flows.

So yes, the draft legislation may help with IoT devices and making them less insecure since consumers care too little about security for any true market driven forces to effectuate these changes.  However, if we continue to take a device-by-device, industry-by-industry approach we will be drafting legislation for years and still inevitably something is going to fall through the cracks.  If we had focused on data-centric legislation years ago then IoT devices may never have been a cybersecurity issue in the first place.

Wouldn’t a more pragmatic choice be to draft legislation that targets data security and privacy irrespective of the platform?  Irrespective of the industry?  Irrespective of the intended market? Why not build legislation that protects data. Wouldn’t the natural and logical flow result in the inclusion of such basic product attributes such as the ability to patch devices and use standard protocols and not use hardcoded passwords?

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography


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