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New laws to protect consumers from cyber criminals come into force in the UK

Consumer protections against hacking and cyber-attacks will come into force today, as all internet connected smart devices will be required by law to meet minimum-security standards.

Manufacturers will be legally required to protect consumers from hackers and cyber criminals from accessing devices with internet or network connectivity – from smartphones to games consoles and connected fridges – as the UK becomes the first country in the world to introduce these laws.

Under the new regime, manufacturers will be banned from having weak, easily guessable default passwords like ‘admin’ or ‘12345’ and if there is a common password the user will be promoted to change it on start-up. This will help prevent threats like the damaging Mirai attack in 2016 which saw 300,000 smart products compromised due to weak security features and used to attack major internet platforms and services, leaving much of the US East Coast without internet. Since then, similar attacks have occurred on UK banks including Lloyds and RBS leading to disruption to customers.

The move marks a significant step towards boosting the UK’s resilience towards cyber-crime, as recent figures show 99% of UK adults own at least one smart device and UK households own an average of nine connected devices. The new regime will also help give customers confidence in buying and using products, which will in turn help grow businesses and the economy.

An investigation conducted by Which? showed that a home filled with smart devices could be exposed to more than 12,000 hacking attacks from across the world in a single week, with a total of 2,684 attempts to guess weak default passwords on just five devices.

Minister for Cyber Viscount Camrose, said:   “As every-day life becomes increasingly dependent on connected devices, the threats generated by the internet multiply and become even greater.

“From today, consumers will have greater peace of mind that their smart devices are protected from cyber criminals, as we introduce world first laws that will make sure their personal privacy, data and finances are safe.

“We are committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online and these new regulations mark a significant leap towards a more secure digital world.”

Data and Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez added: “Today marks a new era where consumers can have greater confidence that their smart devices, such as phones and broadband routers, are shielded from cyber threats, and the integrity of personal privacy, data and finances better protected.

“Our pledge to establish the UK as the global standard for online safety takes a big step forward with these regulations, moving us closer to our goal of a digitally secure future.”

With 57% of households owning a smart TV, 53% owning a voice assistant and 49% owning a smart watch or fitness wristband, this new regime reinforces the government’s commitments to addressing these threats to society and the economy head on.

The laws are coming into force as part of the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure (PSTI) regime, which has been designed to improve the UK’s resilience from cyber-attacks and ensure malign interference does not impact the wider UK and global economy.

The UK Government has collaborated with industry leaders to introduce this raft of transformative protections, which also include manufacturers having to publish information on how to report security issues to increase the speed at which they can address these problems. In addition, consumers and cyber security experts can play an active role in protecting themselves and society from cyber criminals by reporting any products which don’t comply to the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

The government is beginning the legislative process for certain automotive vehicles to be exempt from the product security regulatory regime, as they will be covered by alternative legislation.

This new regime intends to increase consumer confidence in the security of the products they buy and use, delivering on one of the Government’s five priorities to grow the economy. The new laws are part of the government’s £2.6 billion National Cyber Strategy to protect and promote the UK online.

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New laws to protect consumers from cyber criminals come into force in the UK