EXCL: Digital minister says government will pass law to make smart devices safer ‘as soon as we can’

Written by Sam Trendall on 26 January 2021 in News
News

Matt Warman tells PublicTechnology event that government wants products and services to be secure ‘from the ground up’ – reducing burden on consumers and businesses

Credit: UK Parliament/CC BY 3.0

The government wants to pass laws as soon as possible requiring the makers of smart devices to improve levels of cybersecurity, according to the UK’s minister for digital infrastructure.

Giving the opening address this morning at the PublicTechnology Cyber Security Summit, Matt Warman (pictured above) told attendees that government does not want the burden of protection to fall so heavily on those whose data and systems need to be protected. Companies that offer online or cloud services and those that make connected devices need to do their part.

“We are looking to make technology inherently more secure,” Warman said. “So it is not just consumers and businesses who are expected to protect themselves, but the providers of digital services or manufacturers of smart devices building security in from the ground up.”

Above all, cybersecurity is an enabler for the broader digital technology sector, the more consumers and businesses have trust in technology to be resilient and secure, the more these technologies can be used throughout the economy

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last year unveiled proposals for laws that would place new demands on smart device manufacturers. This would include a stipulation that device passwords cannot be reset to a standard factory setting, and requirements to offer a public point of contact for reporting vulnerabilities and give users clear information on the minimum period of time for which the product in question will receive security updates.

Warman said that the government wants to pass these proposals into law as rapidly as possible.

“We are going to legislate on smart devices as soon as we can,” he said. “This work to improve the security of smart devices is making waves internationally as well, with nations such as Australia and India aligning with our approach already. Our code of practice has been incorporated into a new global standard, so manufacturers all over the world understand how to produce secure devices. This standard is already being used in Singapore, and all of this is a great demonstration of the UK’s international leadership on cybersecurity.”

The minister added: “Above all, cybersecurity is an enabler for the broader digital technology sector, the more consumers and businesses have trust in technology to be resilient and secure, the more these technologies can be used throughout the economy to provide benefits for all of us.”

Raising awareness
Alongside the drive to make technology more secure, government also last month launched its Cyber Aware campaign, which aims to inform citizens of simple measures they can take to be safer online.

“We are encouraging the public to visit the website to see the six steps you can take to protect yourselves online – and please spread that message to families, friends and colleagues,” Warman told the conference.

The minister added that government wishes to create “an environment that promotes growth” for cybersecurity companies in the UK.  

“Part of the answer is ensuring a good supply of skilled people, now and in the future,” he said. “We are delivering programmes to support this, and the forthcoming UK Cyber Security Council will also help.”

Another ambition is to ascertain how best to “incentivise” firms across the wider business landscape to become as secure and resilient as possible.

“We are currently conducting a review of cybersecurity initiatives, incentives, and regulation,” Warman said. “This will identify what more we can do to ensure organisations are managing their cyber risks effectively.”

With the five-year timeline of objectives set out by HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office in the 2016 National Cyber Security Strategy nearing its end, government is considering what comes next. One certainty is that cyber will be a key consideration of the wider technology plans being developed by Warman’s department.

“In DCMS we are developing a new digital strategy for the UK,” he said. “This will incorporate what we are doing on cybersecurity, and also show how we use tech to power up the economy, drive productivity, and create jobs in all parts of the country.”

 

Matt Warman was speaking at the PublicTechnology Cyber Security Summit, taking place until Thursday this week. Speakers coming up include NHSX CEO Matthew Gould, police superintendent Rebecca Chapman, and chair of the House of Commons DCMS Committee Julian Knight – and lots more besides.

Registration is free for the public sector – click here to find out more or to register to attend.

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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