Cybersecurity luminaries including Bruce Schneier, Gary McGraw, Joe Grand, Chris Wysopal and Katie Moussouris are backing securepairs.org, countering industry efforts to paint proposed right to repair laws in 20 states as a cyber security risk.
Boston, Massachusetts, April 30, 2019 — Leading information security experts are speaking up in support of right to repair laws that are being debated in state capitols and calling out electronics and technology industry efforts to keep replacement parts, documentation and diagnostic tools for digital devices secret in the name of cyber security.
Declaring “fixable stuff is secure stuff,” the group called for “facts not FUD” (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in the face of recent efforts to paint the right to repair as a cyber security risk. The group of more than 20 cyber security professionals includes some of the most regarded names in information security. Among them: Bruce Schneier of IBM and Harvard University, an author and globally recognized expert in cryptography; Gary McGraw, the computer scientist and author of 12 books on software security; pioneering vulnerability disclosure expert Katie Moussouris of Luta Security; Chris Wysopal, Chief Technology Officer at Veracode, Joe Grand (aka “Kingpin”) of Grand Idea Studio and Dan Geer, the Chief Information Security Officer of In-Q-Tel, a non-profit, venture arm of the CIA.
“As cyber security professionals, we have a responsibility to provide accurate information and reliable advice to lawmakers who are considering Right to Repair laws,” said Joe Grand of Grand Idea Studio, a hardware hacker and embedded systems security expert.
No cyber risk in repair
“False and misleading information about the cyber risks of repair is being directed at state legislators who are considering right to repair laws,” said Paul Roberts, the founder of securepairs.org and Editor in Chief at The Security Ledger, an independent cyber security blog. “Securepairs.org is a voice of reason that will provide policy makers with accurate information about the security problems plaguing connected devices. We will make the case that right to repair laws will bring about a more secure, not less secure future.”
With right to repair laws proposed in 20 states, the technology, electronics and home appliance industries have gone on the offensive. Working through front groups and public relations firms, they are floating specious arguments about the cyber security risks of repair. In opinion pieces, blog posts and interviews, these groups are painting pro-consumer, pro-competition laws granting digital device owners access to service manuals, diagnostic software or replacement parts as a safety risk and a giveaway to hackers and cyber criminals.
“We’ve seen industry opponents using dubious cybersecurity arguments to claim we shouldn’t have the freedom to fix the things we own,” said Nathan Proctor, the head of U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign. “I’m grateful the real experts are standing up, and setting the record straight: There is no cyber threat from repair. Just let us fix our stuff.”
Security issues with connected devices are real enough, notes Roberts. But they have nothing to do with the kinds of measures promoted in right to repair laws. “Home electronics, personal electronic devices and smart appliances too often ship with easily exploitable software vulnerabilities or insecure configurations. These are the digital equivalent of unlocked or unlockable doors that hackers can step through,” Roberts said. “Sadly, device manufacturers, working through their industry groups, PR firms and paid lobbyists, are spending money trying to sink right to repair legislation that is totally unrelated to these problems,” he said.
“We know from hard experience that security through obscurity is a myth,” said Grand. “Keeping the workings of electronic devices secret does nothing to reduce the threat from motivated, resourceful hackers or cyber criminals. Instead, it prevents legitimate owners from maintaining and repairing their property as they see fit. Manufacturers who support Right to Repair will actually improve, not weaken, security by providing access to documentation and genuine, high quality replacement components,” he said.
Securepairs.org encompasses a set of common principles. Namely: that repair and re-use are rights of owners. Second, that there is no security through obscurity. Third: that repair fosters greater security. Fourth: that true security is by design. Finally, that we must make laws and govern ourselves with facts not FUD.
A nation-wide network of security professionals
Securepairs.org is launching to help mobilize information security professionals to help secure the right to repair in their home states: writing letters and emails and providing expert testimony about the real sources of cyber risks in connected devices.
We have assembled some of the world’s top experts on our side to counter the FUD with facts. They include one of the most respected voices on the security of the Internet of Things (Bruce Schneier), on data security and privacy (Jon Callas), secure software and application design (Gary McGraw), on software application security testing (Chris Wysopal), embedded device security (Billy Rios, Joe Grand), and fostering a culture of security (Katie Moussouris). Our ask: be a voice of reason in the debate over a digital right to repair. We need their voices in the needed conversation about the (very real) security issues with connected, “smart” devices – and about the many security benefits of the kinds of requirements encapsulated in right to repair bills.
As of today, we’re inviting other like-minded information security professionals to join this esteemed list. In the months ahead, we look forward to speaking facts to FUD and to infuse the debate over right to repair laws with an understanding about the real risks posed by insecure, connected devices.
With hearings still going on regarding right to repair legislation in 10 states, securepairs.org is also looking to get information security pros to brief lawmakers and to encourage their peers to sign up via its website.
Check out our website and our full list of supporters. If you’re an information security professional and want to help support right to repair laws in your state or nationally, do us a favor and sign up to be a securepairs.org supporter!
We thank you for your support!
Paul F. Roberts
Gordon “Fyodor” Lyon
Dr. Peter Neumann
Cris “Space Rogue” Thomas
Dr. Johannes Ullrich