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4th Dec 2021

EU sets new cybersecurity rules for wireless 'internet of things'

  • Wireless devices like smartphones and tablets are the target of more than 80 percent of cyberattacks (Photo: iStock)
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The European Commission has adopted new cybersecurity rules for wireless devices with the aim to prevent online payment fraud and better protect citizens' personal data – after several reports flagged up the risks from toys that spy on children or unencrypted data stored on smartphones.

New legal requirements will cover all types of devices capable of communicating via the internet (except for some medical equipment and aircraft systems) - but also toys and baby monitors as well as 'wearables', like smartwatches and fitness trackers.

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The usage of wireless devices is rapidly growing in Europe, where there will be an estimated 7.43bn internet-connected devices by 2030 due to the rise of the 'Internet of Things'.

Today, however, these devices are the target of more than 80 percent of cyberattacks.

Under the new rules, manufacturers will have to set up better control systems for the authentication of the users to make electronic payments safer and reduce the risk of fraud.

During the design process, they will also have to implement new features to prevent the unauthorised access or exchange of personal data or the possibility of using that device to disrupt websites or other services.

These rules will apply to all manufacturers placing their products on the EU market. And harmonised standards will be designed to ensure that manufacturers comply with the new obligations, the EU commission said.

"This is a significant step in establishing a comprehensive set of common European Cybersecurity standards for the products (including connected objects) and services brought to our market," the commissioner for the internal market Thierry Breton said in a statement.

The new rules are part of the actions listed under the Cybersecurity Strategy, presented in December 2020, with the aim to respond to the surge of cyberattacks in Europe driven by a growing online presence.

Legal requirements will enter into force in early 2022, unless EU member states or MEPs raise any objections. But manufacturers will have 30 months to adapt to the new obligations.

The upcoming so-called Cyber Resilience Act is expected to build on these rules, covering more products and looking at their whole life cycle.

Meanwhile, the EU agency for cybersecurity (ENISA) revealed last week that cyberattacks have continued to grow in 2021, with supply-chains attacks being among the main threats.

It adds that cybercriminals are increasingly motivated by the monetisation of their attacks.

Last month, EU member states endorsed the idea of creating a joint cyber unit to address large-scale and cross-border attacks.

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