Accountability for insecure software

The FTC recently settled charges with mobile phone maker HTC, which provided highly insecure software on its Android phones:

The Commission charged that HTC America failed to employ reasonable and appropriate security practices in the design and customization of the software on its mobile devices. Among other things, the complaint alleged that HTC America failed to provide its engineering staff with adequate security training, failed to review or test the software on its mobile devices for potential security vulnerabilities, failed to follow well-known and commonly accepted secure coding practices, and failed to establish a process for receiving and addressing vulnerability reports from third parties.

I haven’t seen much written about this, but it seems like a big deal. It’s the first time I can think of that a U.S. regulatory agency has held a company accountable for failing to provide reasonable security in its products. Indeed, for many years, software and hardware vendors alike have avoided accountability. Vendors often disclaim responsibility through license agreements and/or asserting that all products have flaws, so they can’t be expected to provide perfect security. It remains to be seen whether this will be the start of a trend toward greater vendor accountability and whether this action will get other product vendors to take notice and beef up their security efforts.

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