The Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday (Jan. 4) that it is calling on the public to create a tool to help protect consumers from security vulnerabilities in software for home devices that are connected to the Internet, otherwise known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
In a press release, the FTC said it is offering a cash prize of up to $25,000 for the winning solution with up to $3,000 for three honorable mention winners. The FTC wants contestants in the IoT Home Inspector Challenge to create a tool that will address security vulnerabilities that are caused by out-of-date software in IoT devices. The FTC said an ideal tool may be a physical device the consumer can add to his or her home network. That device would check and install updates for other IoT devices on the same home network. Another idea is an app, a cloud-based service or a dashboard.
“Every day American consumers are offered innovative new products and services to make their homes smarter,” said Jessica Rich in the press release. “Consumers want these devices to be secure, so we’re asking for creativity from the public — the tinkerers, thinkers and entrepreneurs — to help them keep device software up-to-date.”
The FTC said it will accept submissions from Mar. 1 to May 22. A panel of expert judges made up of five people will decide the winners. According to the FTC, the IoT market is expanding at a rapid pace with the adoption of applications such as health and fitness monitors, home security devices, connected card and household appliances. While it holds promise for consumers, there are also risks from a security perspective.
The move on the part of the FTC comes just months after a denial-of-service attack using connected Internet devices brought down several websites. According to media reports the victims targeted by the hacker crew were being hit by tens of thousands of IoT devices, such as unsecured routers, digital video recorders and connected IP cameras.