Hi everyone, I’m FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington, and I’m here to discuss security updates for IoT devices and how you can make a difference by filing comments with the FCC.

As you know, serious vulnerabilities are common in IoT, and it often takes too long for these to be patched on end-user devices—if the manufacturer even bothers to release an update, and if the device was even designed to receive them. Companies may stop supporting a device well before consumers have stopped using it. The support period is often not communicated at the time of sale. And sometimes the end of support is not even announced, leaving even informed users unsure whether their devices are still safe.

I’ve advocated for the FCC to require device manufacturers to support their devices with security updates for a reasonable amount of time [1]. I can't bring such a proposal to a vote since I’m not the chairman of the agency. But I was able to convince my colleagues to tentatively support something a little more moderate addressing this problem.

The FCC recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking [2] for a cybersecurity labeling program for connected devices. If they meet certain criteria for the security of their product, manufacturers can put an FCC cybersecurity label on it. I fought hard for one of these criteria to be the disclosure of how long the product will receive security updates. I hope that, besides arming consumers with better information, the commitments on this label (including the support period) will be legally enforceable in contract and tort lawsuits and under other laws. You can see my full statement here [3].

But it’s too early to declare victory. Many manufacturers oppose making any commitments about security updates, even voluntary ones. These manufacturers are heavily engaged at the FCC and represented by sophisticated regulatory lawyers. The FCC and White House are not likely to take a strong stand if they only hear the device manufacturer's side of the story.

In short, they need to hear from you. You have experienced insecure protocols, exposed private keys, and other atrocious security. You have seen these problems persist despite ample warning. People ask, ‘why aren’t there rules about these things?’ This is your chance to get on the record and tell us what you think the rules should be. If infosec doesn’t make this an issue, the general public will continue falsely assuming that everything is fine. But if you get on the record and the government fails to act, the evidence of this failure will be all over the Internet forever.

If you want to influence the process, you have until September 25th, 2023 (midnight ET) to file comments in the rulemaking proceeding.[4] Filing is easy: go to https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/docket-detail/23-239 and click to file either an ‘express’ comment (type into a textbox) or a ‘standard’ comment (upload a PDF). Either way, the FCC is required to consider your arguments. All options are on the table, so don’t hold back, but do make your arguments as clear as possible, so even lawyers can understand them. If you have a qualification (line of work, special degree, years of experience, etc.) that would bolster the credibility of your official comment, be sure to mention that, but the only necessary qualification is being an interested member of the public.

I’m here to listen and learn. AMA. Feel free to ask any questions about this or related issues, and I’ll answer as many as I can. I just ask that we try to stay on the topic of security. My legal advisor, Marco Peraza, a security-focused software engineer turned cybersecurity lawyer, will be answering questions too.
I’m open to incorporating your ideas (and even being convinced I’m wrong), and I hope that my colleagues at the FCC are as well. Thank you!

[1] https://www.fcc.gov/document/simington-calls-mandatory-secur…

[2] https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-proposes-cybersecurity-labe…

[3] https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-proposes-cybersecurity-labe…

[4] If your comments are purely in response to arguments made in other comments, you have an extra 15 days, until October 10, 2023.