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New proposed cybersecurity label for home routers in Singapore

Consumers in Singapore can expect some help in picking secure Internet home routers, if new rules proposed on 13 March 2020 are accepted.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) is looking to introduce a series of requirements to provide a safer and more secure Internet experience for users and to strengthen the resilience of Singapore’s telecommunications networks.

The surge in intelligent devices in homes, such as web cameras and baby monitors, makes it important to secure home routers, the authority said.

Under the proposed rules, home routers that meet stringent requirements, including stronger password administration, will receive a compliance label.

An IMDA spokesperson stated that residential gateways, commonly known as home routers, are often the first entry point as they form the key bridge between the Internet and residents’ home networks.

These routers are often used by hackers keen on spying or stealing information.

The proposed rules will mean new routers sold to consumers will not be allowed to have default passwords, meaning that no two routers will have the same access codes.

Consumers will instead have to set up their passwords and there will be a minimum level of password strength for new routers.

The default settings of these routers will have to be better managed and controlled as well. For instance, the firewall of these routers will have to be switched on by default.

Manufacturers will also have to make sure that their routers automatically update to the latest and most secure firmware.

The IMDA proposed requirements were released on 13 March 2020. The authority is now seeking views from the industry and the public.

The IMDA said that together with the Cybersecurity labelling scheme that will be rolled out by the Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore (CSA), its effort to introduce more stringent rules for home routers will better protect Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices here as well.

Residents will not need to change their home routers. Instead, they can look for the IMDA label when they upgrade their routers.

If accepted, all new routers sold here must comply with IMDA’s specifications by early next year.

In order to give manufacturers time to adjust, IMDA said that the rules will kick in six months after the finalised standards come into effect.

Previously-approved home routers can continue to be sold until one year after the finalised standards come into effect.

The authority noted that some manufacturers have already incorporated the proposed requirements in newer models of their home routers.

It expects mainstream models will continue to remain affordable as new equipment complying with IMDA’s rules are launched.

On 13 March 2020, the IMDA also announced a new IoT guide to help business users and their vendors better deploy IoT systems and devices safely.

The guide was developed by IMDA and CSA, after a public consultation in January 2019, and is available on its website.

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