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FTC Seeks Tools for Securing Home IoT Devices

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Wednesday the launch of a contest that aims to find solutions for securing the Internet of Things (IoT) devices deployed in consumers’ homes.

The IoT Home Inspector Challenge seeks a technical solution for addressing vulnerabilities in IoT devices. The FTC said the tool can be a physical device installed on the user’s home network, an app, a cloud-based service, or a dashboard.

The minimum requirement is that the tool addresses vulnerabilities caused by outdated software, but it can also include other security features, such as ones designed to mitigate the risk of hardcoded or weak passwords.

Participants will need to submit an abstract, a short video demonstrating how the tool works, and a detailed technical explanation. However, a fully functional prototype is not required as long as there is enough information to evaluate the tool. The winning submission will be selected based on criteria such as scalability, user-friendliness and how well it works.

Submissions will be evaluated by a panel of five judges. The top prize is $25,000, but the FTC is also prepared to reward three other competitors with up to $3,000.

The FTC has pointed out that proposed solutions must work on existing IoT products, they must properly protect the information they collect, and they must avoid introducing additional security risks.

Registration will open on or around March 1 and contestants must enter their submissions by May 22. In the first round of the challenge, up to 20 participants will be selected based on the videos and abstracts they submit. In the next and final round, contestants will have to provide a detailed explanation of how their solution works. Winners will be announced on July 27.

IoT botnets such as Mirai and BASHLITE, which have hijacked and abused millions of devices worldwide, have made companies and governments realize the importance of securing Internet-connected devices.

The FTC is not the only organization offering a reward for IoT security solutions. In October, the non-profit research and development organization MITRE announced a prize of $50,000 for novel ideas in detecting rogue IoT devices on a network. MITRE’s challenge is expected to end in mid-January.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.