Examination of Witnesses

Part of Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:19 am on 15 March 2022.

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Dave Kleidermacher:

Let me start by saying I am so appreciative of the leadership role that the UK Government have taken to help us get to a better place for IoT security. I have been working closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and NCSC for the past couple of years leading up to this. I have worked on how to measure security in digital technology for almost 20 years, and I believe that the lack of transparency in what the security ingredients are for digital technology has been one of the headwinds facing the entire digital world, even before the IoT was called the IoT. Of course, the IoT has made it much more urgent that we address this.

I agree that the minimum requirements we are talking about here are a really good starting point, but as we move forward and look at the secondary legislation, the really big challenge is how we scale this. The question about smaller developers is something that I am quite concerned about. At Google, we build our own first-party products but we also develop global-scale platforms. On Android, we have many manufacturers of devices across all different price points. We have millions of app developers across the world with whom we connect and work in all sorts of different environments.

One of the biggest challenges is how to monitor and measure these requirements, and how to make that work for small businesses in particular. That is the area I have personally been putting a lot of time into over the past couple of years. How do we build and establish an actual practical mechanism or scheme for measuring security at scale? There are a lot of details that go into that, but at the end of the day, we need a hub and spoke model. I can give you an example of a failure mode. The UK is, again, taking a leadership role, but many countries are looking at similar kinds of ideas and legislative concepts. The problem is that if every single country decides to create its own testing scheme for how to measure this, imagine how difficult it would be to have, say, a webcam or smart display, and then go to each country and provide documentation, provide the test results, explain how it works and go through a testing mechanism for every country.

As an example, for our Nest Wifi products, Google has had public commitments and transparency about our desire to have third-party independent security labs to test the products and assess compliance to these common-sense requirements. We have been doing that for a while now. We certify all of our products that way, but then a couple of countries at the leading edge of this started to ask us to certify again their schemes, and we did. That was a lot of work, to test to one scheme and certify and then do the same for another country with a different set of rules. The product did not change at all; it did not get any better because we were already certifying it. However, the work and the cost of doing that were significant. If we scale that to the full IoT, to all the countries which are interested in this—they all should be—then you can imagine how quickly it breaks down.

The hub and spoke model is looking at how we can work together to build a public-private partnership where there are non-government organisations, typically well-regarded international standards bodies, which take the great standards that we are developing, such as the ETSI EN 303 645 international specification on security requirements, which the UK has led in developing, and translate that into a practical conformance regime. An NGO can take that specification and the test specification—a sister specification, ETSI TS 103 701—and test a product once to have it certified for use in all of the different nations which adopt the same standard. That is the trick to this—the hard part that has to be solved as we move forward.