It’s a challenge worthy of Drs. Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, and Ray Stantz – and it could result in a prize of as much as $25,000 for a creative tech tinkerer.
The out-of-the-box innovators from “Ghostbusters” were famous for inventing a backpack-mounted positron collider to neutralize malicious ectoplasmic entities. The FTC wants to help protect consumers from something equally dangerous: security weaknesses in the software of home devices connected to the Internet of Things. So we’re sponsoring the Internet of Things Home Inspector Challenge, a contest to create a tool to address vulnerabilities caused by out-of-date software in IoT devices.
With the advent of the smart home, more of us are relying on internet-connected – and interconnected – devices to operate our appliances, manage home security, monitor our health, etc. The benefits are undeniable, but those devices also pose potential security risks. Compounding the problem is that the nature of those risks changes, necessitating security updates and patches. As a result, first-generation protections may be useless against second-generation threats.
But how do consumers know if their internet-connected devices they use at home have the most up-to-date security software? That’s where you and the IoT Home Inspector Challenge come in.
We’re asking innovators to come up with a tech solution to the security vulnerabilities caused when IoT household products are running out-of-date software. Perhaps it’s a physical device people could add to their home networks that would install security updates for other devices on that network. Or it could be an app, cloud-based service, or dashboard. Or maybe it’s something entirely different that you’ve been noodling through for some time now. Come up with the idea selected by an expert panel of five judges and you could win the big prize. (Submissions that earn an honorable mention could win up to $3,000.)
Here are some important details:
- Submissions will be accepted between March 1, 2017, and 12 noon EDT on May 22, 2017.
- In the initial stage, judges will assess each entrant’s abstract or video. Based on that, they will select up to 20 entrants to move to the final round. That’s when the judges will review those entrants’ complete submissions. (Please read the rules, criteria, and registration information carefully. We’ve posted some preliminary FAQs, but check the IoT Home Inspector Challenge homepage for details as the March 1st opening date draws near.)
- Winners will be announced on July 27, 2017, or thereabouts.
Even if you don’t enter the Challenge, there are other dos and dont’s that industry members should heed. Read the FTC’s Careful Connections: Building Security in the Internet of Things and Start with Security: A Guide for Business for compliance basics. Also, the Challenge in no way changes the fundamental principle that IoT companies must honor their privacy and security promises and refrain from unfair practices.