Consumer Reports has decided to include security ratings in its product reviews, posing implications for the way connected devices are designed and used. The move by the nonprofit organization, which produces detailed reviews of consumer goods, is a reaction to the growing risk of sensitive data posed by insecure connected devices. It is hoped the security ratings, which will form part of a new security standard, will bolster user confidence and deter cybercriminals.

IT managers should note that the move could have implications in terms of product and service design. The promotion of security standards and ratings from an organization like Consumer Reports means technology companies must think carefully about how their products are designed.

Where Is There a Need for Security Ratings?

Consumer Reports stated that the fast pace of technological developments, although exciting, brings new threats to security and personal privacy. Advancements in the Internet of Things (IoT) also carry new opportunities for connectivity and vulnerability, explained Computer Business Review.

Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans are either slightly or not at all confident their personal data is private and not distributed without their knowledge, according to Consumer Reports. The organization said 96 percent of Americans have serious doubts that social networks will protect their privacy.

The organization also referred to growing public concerns about the vulnerability of products and services in this age of connectivity. It cited numerous incidents, such as Yahoo’s recent announcement that 1 billion user accounts had been breached and Chrysler’s recall of 1.4 million vehicles that could be remotely hacked, that reinforce consumers’ worries.

How Will the Ratings be Implemented?

In a separate announcement, Consumer Reports described the ratings as the first phase of a collaborative effort to create a new standard that safeguards consumers’ security and privacy. The standard is being developed in partnership with leading privacy organizations, including Disconnect, Ranking Digital Rights and the Cyber Independent Testing Lab.

Consumer Reports hopes the IT industry will use this standard when designing digital products such as connected devices, software and mobile apps. The standard is currently in its first draft and has been placed on GitHub so engineers and industry groups can comment. Consumer Reports hopes this process will lead to a clear set of best practices in terms of consumer rights regarding privacy and security.

What Are the Wider Implications?

The organization thought the introduction of standards and security ratings will help users to make sound choices based on trusted information. IT companies should pay attention to these efforts, since the vendors that do a better job in terms of privacy and security are likely to gain customers.

These decisions matter to line-of-business executives, too. IT managers will want their businesses to run tried-and-tested products and services. And consumers — who are more confident about using products they feel they can trust at home — will place pressure on their businesses to adopt similar technology in the enterprise.

The creation of an open standard that makes it easy for consumers to track results is also likely to spawn innovation, reported Network World. Companies will be incentivized to create increasingly secure products and services. Experts suggested open information sharing can help in the fight against cybercrime and provide a valuable resource in the development of secure technologies.

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