For the holidays, many consumers gave or received devices for their homes that are WiFi-connected, often referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT). Those devices include Internet routers, security cameras, home security systems, and a variety of appliances and electronics: televisions, refrigerators, clothes washers, lighting, heating/cooling systems, toys, DVRs, and more. Residences outfitted with these devices are often referred to as "Smart Homes" or "Connected Homes."
Experts forecast 50 billion devices globally by 2020. Plus, utilities have already installed smart meters in homes that regularly transmit consumers' water/oil/gas usage to their utility providers. Protecting those devices against hackers is critical.
While the FTC has published guidelines for manufacturers of IOT devices, those guidelines aren't mandatory. The privacy threats of IoT devices are known, and researchers have warned about the vulnerabilities in specific products.
To help consumers manage their WiFi-connected home devices, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a prize competition called the "IoT Home Inspector Challenge." The FTC will award the $25,000 top prize to the solution that best helps consumers protect their IoT devices against vulnerabilities and to manage passwords (e.g., replace factory-defaults) for all home devices. Up to three honorable mention prizes of $3,000 each area also available.
Consumers working individually, or in teams, can register and submit entries beginning March 1, 2017. The deadline for entries is May 22, 2017. Winners will be announced on July 27, 2017. To be considered, entries must meet the following criteria:
- Provide a technical solution, rather than a policy or legal solution
- Work on home IoT devices that currently exist on the market
- Protect information it collects both in transit and at rest,
- Explain how the tool or solution will avoid or mitigate any additional security risks that the tool itself might introduce into the consumer’s home by (example, software upgrades)
The judges will rate each entry based upon how well it addresses the following four components:
- Recognize what IoT devices are operating in the consumer’s home. This may be automatic or provide instructions for consumer input,
- Determine what software version is already on those IoT devices. Again, this may be automatic or provide instructions for consumer input,
- Determine the latest software version each home IoT device should have, and
- Assist with updates.
Visit the FTC IoT Home Inspector Challenge site for complete details about the competition, including contest rules, judges, FAQs, and the registration/submission process.