Govern­ment bill published: the vol­un­t­a­ry IT secu­ri­ty label is coming

The IT Secu­ri­ty 2.0 Act (only in Ger­man) tasks the Fede­ral Office for Infor­ma­ti­on Secu­ri­ty (BSI) with intro­du­cing a vol­un­t­a­ry IT secu­ri­ty label in order to pro­vi­de con­su­mers with bet­ter infor­ma­ti­on about IT secu­ri­ty. The­se labels, which are to be intro­du­ced by the end of the year, will allow con­su­mers to easi­ly obtain infor­ma­ti­on about the secu­ri­ty func­tions pro­mi­sed by manu­fac­tu­r­ers in their pro­ducts and ser­vices. The IT secu­ri­ty label is con­cei­ved as a vol­un­t­a­ry label for IT pro­ducts based on § 9c of the BSI Act (only in Ger­man) but makes no state­ments with regard to data protection.

The vol­un­t­a­ry IT secu­ri­ty label is com­pa­ra­ble, but not iden­ti­cal, to cyber­se­cu­ri­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on in accordance with the Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty Act. It is likely that natio­nal IT secu­ri­ty labels will even­tual­ly be trans­for­med into Euro­pean cyber­se­cu­ri­ty cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on. Pos­si­ble indi­ca­ti­ons of such a trans­for­ma­ti­on can alre­a­dy be found on the BSI web­site, but it is by no means certain.

Rele­van­ce for companies

The labels will allow com­pa­nies to easi­ly adver­ti­se the secu­ri­ty fea­tures of their IT pro­ducts, which could enable them to stand out in com­pe­ti­ti­on. Pla­ce­ment of the labels may ser­ve as a sel­ling point in view of the gro­wing demand among con­su­mers for infor­ma­ti­on about cyber­se­cu­ri­ty aspects.

Appli­ca­ti­on pro­cess and mar­ket surveillance

In the cour­se of the year, it will be pos­si­ble to sub­mit appli­ca­ti­ons (only in Ger­man) for broad­band rou­ters fal­ling within the scope of BSI Tech­ni­cal Gui­de­line TR-30148. Other pro­duct cate­go­ries are expec­ted to fol­low. The decla­ra­ti­ons sub­mit­ted by manu­fac­tu­r­ers will be sub­jec­ted to a com­ple­ten­ess and plau­si­bi­li­ty check, for which BSI typi­cal­ly sets asi­de a peri­od of six weeks.

Labels will gene­ral­ly be issued for a peri­od of at least two years, during which time the manu­fac­tu­rer will be requi­red to main­tain the con­for­mi­ty of its pro­duct and report any chan­ges to BSI. At the same time, BSI may seek to veri­fy the fea­tures pro­mi­sed by the manu­fac­tu­rer by means of spot checks, or as the cir­cum­s­tances require.

An appli­ca­ti­on may be rejec­ted if the­re is evi­dence that the pro­duct, or the soft­ware which is deli­ver­ed along with the pro­duct, con­ta­ins known secu­ri­ty vul­nerabi­li­ties and if a war­ning or noti­fi­ca­ti­on has alre­a­dy been issued in accordance with §§ 7 and 7a BSI Act, and/or if mea­su­res have been taken in accordance with § 9c(8) of the BSI Act. In accordance with § 9c(8) of the BSI Act, the IT secu­ri­ty label may be revo­ked later on if the manu­fac­tu­rer’s decla­ra­ti­on is vio­la­ted or if the manu­fac­tu­rer fails to meet the sta­tu­to­ry requirements.

Recent deve­lo­p­ments

Just recent­ly, Ger­many’s Fede­ral Minis­try of the Inte­ri­or, Buil­ding and Com­mu­ni­ty (BMI) published a draft Ordi­nan­ce on IT secu­ri­ty labels from the Fede­ral Office for Infor­ma­ti­on Secu­ri­ty (BSI) (only in Ger­man). The draft Ordi­nan­ce addres­ses the design and use of the IT secu­ri­ty label, which is to be com­pri­sed of the manu­fac­tu­rer’s decla­ra­ti­on and secu­ri­ty infor­ma­ti­on, and the label is to con­tain refe­ren­ces to both of the­se docu­ments. The draft Ordi­nan­ce also con­ta­ins pro­vi­si­ons rela­ting to the appli­ca­ti­on pro­cess and the pro­ce­du­re for eva­lua­ting appli­ca­ti­ons. Con­su­mer infor­ma­ti­on about appro­ved pro­ducts is to be published on BSI’s website.

Addi­tio­nal ques­ti­ons are rai­sed in this con­text regar­ding the requi­re­ment for manu­fac­tu­r­ers to pro­vi­de BSI with neces­sa­ry infor­ma­ti­on for the pro­duct web­site (dyna­mic infor­ma­ti­on source). The new­ly enac­ted § 327f of the Civil Code (only in Ger­man) (taking effect on 1 Janu­ary 2022), rela­ting to con­su­mer con­tracts for digi­tal pro­ducts, requi­res sup­pli­ers to update their pro­ducts during the term of use in order to main­tain their con­for­mi­ty with the terms of the con­tract and to noti­fy con­su­mers of such updates. The­se updates include secu­ri­ty updates. This sta­tu­te ser­ves to imple­ment Direc­ti­ve (EU) 2019/770 on “cer­tain aspects con­cer­ning con­tracts for the sup­p­ly of digi­tal con­tent and digi­tal ser­vices” (the Digi­tal Ser­vices Direc­ti­ve). For digi­tal pro­ducts which are sup­pli­ed for a long peri­od of time, updates are requi­red for the dura­ti­on of the sup­p­ly peri­od; in other cases, the update requi­re­ment is deter­mi­ned based on reasonable con­su­mer expec­ta­ti­ons. But whe­ther the­re is an inter­play bet­ween the vol­un­t­a­ry IT secu­ri­ty label and the requi­re­ments for com­pa­nies in accordance with § 327f of the Civil Code can­not be con­clu­si­ve­ly deter­mi­ned at this time.

Sin­ce com­pa­nies can use the dyna­mic infor­ma­ti­on source to point out exis­ting secu­ri­ty pro­blems and secu­ri­ty updates and com­mu­ni­ca­te recom­men­ded actions, the pro­vi­si­on of such infor­ma­ti­on should, at least, be taken as an indi­ca­ti­on in favor of the com­pa­ny that the requi­re­ments of § 327f of the Civil Code have been satis­fied. Simi­lar­ly, the IT secu­ri­ty label may be taken as an indi­ca­ti­on that the com­pa­ny has satis­fied the IT secu­ri­ty requi­re­ments ari­sing from Artic­le 32 of the GDPR, which are also of signi­fi­can­ce for manu­fac­tu­r­ers. This would fur­ther rein­force the trend in which data pro­tec­tion aut­ho­ri­ties have been stron­gly incli­ned to fol­low BSI’s gui­de­lines in ques­ti­ons rela­ting to IT security.

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