The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it is challenging the public to create an innovative tool that will help protect consumers from security vulnerabilities in the software of home devices connected to the Internet of Things. The agency is offering a cash prize of up to $25,000 for the best technical solution, with up to $3,000 available for up to three honorable mention winner(s).
The FTC is asking IoT Home Inspector Challenge contestants to develop a tool that would address security vulnerabilities caused by out-of-date software in IoT devices. An ideal tool might be a physical device that the consumer can add to his or her home network that would check and install updates for other IoT devices on that home network, or it might be an app or cloud-based service, or a dashboard or other user interface. Contestants also have the option of adding features such as those that would address hard-coded, factory default or easy-to-guess passwords.
“Every day American consumers are offered innovative new products and services to make their homes smarter,” said Jessica Rich. “Consumers want these devices to be secure, so we’re asking for creativity from the public – the tinkerers, thinkers and entrepreneurs – to help them keep device software up-to-date.”
The Internet of Things, an array of billions of everyday objects sending and receiving data over the internet, is expanding rapidly with the adoption of applications such as health and fitness monitors, home security devices, connected cars and household appliances. It holds many potential benefits for consumers, but also raises numerous privacy and security concerns that could undermine consumer confidence.
Submissions will be accepted as early as March 1, 2017 and are due May 22, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. EDT. Winners will be announced on or about July 27, 2017.
Up to 20 contestants will be selected in the first round, where judges will only assess the contestants’ videos and abstracts without the detailed explanation. Qualifying contestants will then move on to the next and final round where the detailed explanations will be considered for a chance to win the top prize of $25,000 or $3,000 for honorable mention.
An expert panel of five judges will judge the contest.
This the FTC’s fourth government contest under the America COMPETES Act, and the first one addressing IoT issues. In 2015, the FTC hosted robocall contests in partnership with Pindrop Security and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
Complete rules for the current contest are published in the Federal Register and available at: ftc.gov/IoTHomeInspector where you can find instructions and requirements regarding the registration and submission process. Contest information will also be posted on Challenge.gov, an online challenge platform administered by the U.S. General Services Administration.