February 11, 2018

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New Hampshire lawmakers should stand up for digital device security

By
Matt Mincieli
Concord Monitor

(This article originally appeared in the Concord Monitor on February 11, 2018)

In today’s digital world, we rely on smartphones, computers, tablets and other devices to safely access and transmit our most valuable information. From bank accounts to medical records, these devices store and protect our digital identities.

For these reasons, a bill being considered on Tuesday in the New Hampshire House of Representatives’ Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee should concern us all.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 1733, would require technology manufacturers to publish technical information about their devices and share it with the public. This includes detailed diagnostic and repair information that could compromise a device’s source code, a highly sensitive form of intellectual property, and provide insights into the inner workings of computer programs and software.

This policy would impact thousands of devices, including smartphones, computers, video game platforms and more.

The bill is being sold as a way to give consumers more options for fixing digital devices. However, if it passed, the bill would expose residents of New Hampshire to significant security vulnerabilities and have a chilling effect on innovation.

Put simply, passing this bill would be a gift to cybercriminals. It would provide them with unprecedented access to technical information about the devices and networks they are targeting. At a time when lawmakers should be doubling down on efforts to protect consumers from cyberattacks, this legislation would be a major step in the wrong direction.

For the security of New Hampshire residents and their digital devices, this bill must be rejected. If passed, the state would be going down a dangerous and uncharted path. Indeed, similar bills were introduced in over a dozen states last year, and in all cases, they were defeated once lawmakers and the public understood their dangerous impact.

Consumers today have a range of choices for repairing their devices, and we should continue to support these options in ways that do not open up new security risks.

Also concerning about the proposed legislation is the stifling effect it would have on research and development in New Hampshire’s growing technology industry, which employs over 40,000 people and accounts for 10 percent of the state’s economy.

Technology companies invest heavily in the development of new and innovative products, and the protection of intellectual property is critical to these efforts. The proposed legislation would compromise companies’ R&D initiatives by making public the information that makes their products unique. This would deter technology companies, as well as others whose businesses are driven by intellectual property, from coming to New Hampshire and hamstring a sector that is driving growth and job creation across the state.

No other state has adopted a policy like this. It would be a huge mistake if New Hampshire becomes the first.

We urge state lawmakers to oppose this bill and stand up for the security of digital devices.

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