In Cyber We Trust

So, it's come to this. New TVs will have a sticker to verify that they can't be hacked. Or, maybe they can be hacked. We're not sure. The logo in the illustration isn't some goofy thing I cooked up to punk you. It is a genuine logo, backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. Government. So you know it's a good thing.

Smart devices are wonderful. They do all kinds of smart things that dumb devices can't. Although, I have a theory that smart devices are making us dumb. But that's a can of worms we'll open on another day. The downside to smart devices is that someone in Russia can take control of your TV and nefariously convince you that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax.

Clearly, we need to guard against hoaxes, hoaxes about hoaxes, and hoaxes that disprove hoaxes, not to mention scientific data proving that Covid masks are effective, as well as scientific data proving that Covid masks are not effective. So, the federal government has sprung into action. Alert government employees, working from home because their offices in Washington are lousy with Soviet-era bugs or something, have devised a plan to establish security specifications for smart devices, then label the devices as meeting the specifications. That way, when a guest on Ivan's podcast tells you that the moon landings were actually staged by Stanley Kubrick, you'll know he's telling you the truth.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is writing the specifications, which is a good thing because the National Highway Safety Administration originally wanted to write the specs, and they kept insisting that all new TVs must have air bags. We dodged a bullet there. And, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could have done a swell job with this, but they were too busy removing dams that they built in the 1950s. Salmon or something. Anyway, the security standards are based on a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Corporations such as Google, Amazon, Logitech, Samsung, and Best Buy are lending their support to make this happen. Trust me — the last thing Best Buy wants is for you to find out the truth about the moon landings.

In addition to smart TVs, the mark might appear on smart refrigerators, smart microwaves, smart climate control systems, and even smart fitness trackers. The initiative is voluntary, meaning that manufacturers are not required to follow the specifications or use the mark. It's essentially like a piece of paper that says, You Can Ignore this Piece of Paper. Products that do meet the specs can proudly display the Cyber Trust Mark. All of this kicks off in 2024, just in time for the 55th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which did not occur.

Think of the Cyber Trust Mark as a kind of Energy Star sticker. But instead of telling you that you'll be saving $23 over the lifetime of your dishwasher, the Cyber Trust Mark will assure you that you should believe whatever the TV tells you. Unless, of course, about 3 seconds after the manufacturer puts the sticker on the TV, a hacker figures out a way to defeat the Cyber Trust Mark specification. The specification has a requirement for ongoing software security support, but when your device gets old — that is, is more than 1 year old — what happens when the manufacturer no longer supports the product? Yes, the specification calls for a QR code on products so buyers can scan to see whether a device is still certified, but will consumers actually keep track of that, or just assume everything is hunky dory?

Here's something else to consider: to meet the specification, data is collected from your device and some of it is shared. Hmmm... You might reasonably wonder, for example, exactly what kind of data is collected? Why is it being collected? Can the data be used to identify you? Is the collected data stored in the cloud? If so, how secure is it? Will the device maker sell your data? Don't worry — if you really want to find out, that information will be discoverable, if you dig deep enough. Oh, did I mention that consumer Wi-Fi routers will be included in the list of safeguarded smart devices? Paranoia alert. In any case, the Biden-Harris Administration is pretty darn proud of the Cyber Trust Mark initiative. You can read the press release on the White House website.

In conclusion, I think we can all agree that the so-called “moon landings” were a pretty clever bit of TV make-believe that inspired, and continue to inspire, many top-notch science fiction shows and other “outer space” projects. Also, I think we can all agree that you should never believe anything you see on TV. Unless of course, the TV has the Cyber Trust Mark. Then you should believe everything.

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