0370 270 6000

already registered?

Please sign in with your existing account details.

need to register?

Register to access exclusive content, sign up to receive our updates and personalise your experience on brownejacobson.com.

Privacy statement - Terms and conditions

Forgotten your password?

Who is responsible for cybersecurity in the internet of things?

27 July 2013

According to a recent report two researchers managed to hack into the systems of new cars made by Fiat Chrysler and, through the cars’ entertainment systems, take control of various systems including the GPS and brakes.

In addition to being genuinely scary, this raises the question – as the ‘internet of things’ becomes reality - who is responsible for the cybersecurity of those ‘things’?

The question is important because there is a rapidly growing desire amongst a wide variety of companies to use internet connectivity as a feature in their products. The Fiat Crysler cars are an example of this trend along with refrigerators, blenders, televisions and aircraft.

What does the law say?

As often the case with new technology there’s little by way of legislation that covers this point. Of course the hacking itself is illegal - the Computer Misuse Act 1990 sees to that – but, in our joined up world of the ‘internet of things’, assuming the hacker is unknown - who is responsible for ensuring the security of real physical items? Should it be the manufacturer? The user? Or someone else?

Section 105A of the Communications Act 2003 imposes a legal obligation to take appropriate measures to prevent cybersecurity breach but only applies to telecommunications companies and ISPs. Similarly, at the European level the Cybersecurity Directive is currently being enacted and will bolster the legal obligations on companies regarding cybersecurity but again has telecommunications and ISPs as its main focus. The level of security for communication of messages over the internet, seems a little far removed from (for instance) the security of digital commands to the brakes or controls of a car. Can we really expect ISPs to be responsible for the hacking of physical items whilst in use?

What can users and manufacturers do in the meantime?

Between contracting parties – as discussed in a previous in house lawyers webinar, a company can allocate responsibility for a cyber-breach (provided it uses appropriate, explicit wording in the agreement). For consumer arrangements however - the court would need to consider whether any such clause was ‘fair’ in the circumstances.

In the meantime any companies involved in supplying products or services related to the internet of things should ensure they fully understand how their contracts apportion responsibility for a cyber-breach and those wishing to absolve themselves of such responsibility should make sure any contracts make this explicit.


Focus on...

Future opportunities with the electric vehicle (EV) revolution

From 2030, sales of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned in the UK and from 2035, that ban will extend to hybrid vehicles. It will take a lot of work to achieve these targets; and From 2030, sales of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned in the UK and from 2035, that ban will extend to hybrid vehicles.

View

Legal updates

High Growth Tech Fundraisings and Exits Transaction Update 2021

The past 12 months have been busy for the Corporate Tech Team, despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

View

Legal updates

Lloyd v Google – what next?

The Supreme Court’s pending decision could potentially open the floodgates for data privacy litigation going forward.

View

Claims club

Watch our on-demand video for our popular Claims Club where we discussed the risk of data sharing, risks in a changing climate, highway claims and what we can see on the horizon.

View

The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

Richard Nicholas

Richard Nicholas

Partner and Responsible for In House Lawyers

View profile

Mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up