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Volume XI, Number 135

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Senate Passes IoT Cybersecurity Bill by Unanimous Consent

Last night, the Senate passed by unanimous consent H.R. 1668, the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act.  The House had previously passed the bill by voice vote in September after lengthy negotiations with the Senate to resolve differences between their respective bills.  The bill now heads to the President’s desk for his signature.

The IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop standards and guidelines on how federal government agencies should appropriately use and manage IoT devices connected to information systems.  In so doing, the bill directs NIST to develop “minimum information security requirements for managing cybersecurity risks associated with such devices” and further requires NIST to take into account current standards and best practices in the marketplace.  Moreover, the bill requires NIST to develop guidelines on how federal agencies should manage and resolve cybersecurity vulnerabilities in their IoT devices, as well as how contractors and subcontractors receive and disseminate information about such vulnerabilities.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is tasked with implementing NIST’s guidelines throughout the federal government, except for national security systems.

The scope and effect of the bill remains to be seen.  The final version of the bill struck the definition of IoT devices under section 3 and instead placed guidance on that term in section 2, which is the bill’s Sense of Congress.  This will likely have the effect of providing NIST with greater discretion in determining the scope of the bill, i.e., to which IoT devices the guidelines will apply.  According to one estimate, the number of IoT connected devices will reach 125 billion by 2030.

Furthermore, the bill only applies to practices of the federal government and federally procured devices.  While private sector practices remain nominally unaffected, NIST’s guideline could spillover and serve as de facto standards for private sector management as well.  Lastly, while the bill does not impose any standards on the functionality and security of IoT devices themselves, federal agencies are prohibited from procuring devices that do not allow for compliance with NIST’s guidelines.  This prohibition will likely have some effect on how manufacturers design their devices.

Congress will likely continue to deliberate on cyber and data security measures in the 117th Congress.  ML Strategies will keep a close eye on implementing guidelines from this legislation, once enacted.

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©1994-2021 Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 323
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About this Author

Christian T. Fjeld Vice President Mintz Strategies Lobbying & Public Policy
Vice President

Christian is based in our Washington, DC office and is a Vice President of ML Strategies. He assists a variety of clients in their interactions with the federal government.

Prior to joining ML Strategies, Christian spent nearly 10 years in staff leadership roles with the US Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation serving Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) as the former Chairman, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) as the former Ranking Member, and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the current Ranking Member of the committee. During...

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Chris Harvie, Communication Attorney, FCC, Mintz Levin, Communications Privacy & Cybersecurity FCC Regulation Legislative Strategy Cable & Telecom Transactions Franchising & Rights-of-Way Issues
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Chris devotes his practice to assisting cable operators, broadband companies, and content providers with a broad range of legal, policy and legislative matters. He represents clients before federal and state agencies, on Capitol Hill, and in court on a variety of communications law issues. Chris’s areas of specialty include privacy, cybersecurity, surveillance law, broadband policy, franchising and access to local rights-of-way, and policy and legislative issues affecting the Internet of Things. As a former committee counsel to the chair of the US Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust,...

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