The Cyber Resilience Act Is Coming!

A brief overview of this recent EU draft regulation

Blog The Cyber Resilience Act Is Coming!

| 6 min read

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Europe continues ahead of the curve when it comes to cybersecurity regulations. A few months ago, we brought up the renewal of its NIS Directive (NIS2). Now, we will speak about the Cyber Resilience Act (CRA), a regulatory proposal aimed at the development and marketing of secure products with digital elements (PDEs). The CRA would serve as a complement to the NIS2 Directive, which covers cybersecurity in services provided by important and essential entities in and for the European Union (EU). Both regulations are part of a comprehensive cybersecurity framework that the EU has been invigorating in recent years.

PDEs and the objectives of the CRA

In September 2022, the European Commission published the draft CRA. In order to strengthen the security of PDEs, this regulation seeks to impose preventive requirements on their planning, design, development, commercialization and maintenance. It also aims to enforce the prompt reporting of exploitation of vulnerabilities or other cybersecurity incidents linked to these products. The CRA would apply to various economic operators: the manufacturers of PDEs and those individuals or entities who contract their manufacture or import or distribute them for use in the EU market.

But what exactly is a PDE? According to what is expressed in the draft, a product with digital elements is "any software or hardware product and its remote data processing solutions, including software or hardware components to be placed on the market separately." It emphasizes PDEs "whose intended and reasonably foreseeable use includes a direct or indirect logical or physical data connection to a device or network." Therefore, beyond apps and other software products, this term can include physical devices or hardware such as smart TVs and refrigerators, baby monitors, home cameras, smart watches, etc.

The CRA tries to grapple with several issues related to PDEs: Currently, EU legislations apply to the security of only a few. Many PDEs are then launched on the market with inadequate levels of cybersecurity. This leads to the presence of vulnerabilities that, when exploited, can sometimes affect not only an organization but an entire supply chain. In addition, some of these products are not properly maintained and do not provide sufficient information to their users regarding their security.

The purposes of the CRA are consistent with the intentions of the security-by-design and -default guidance we discussed a few months ago. The EU wants companies involved in or related to the manufacture of PDEs to put into practice trustworthy security principles from the beginning and throughout the life cycle of these products, striving to place and maintain them on the market with as few vulnerabilities as possible. Moreover, it is intended that users can have cybersecurity as an evaluation criterion when choosing PDEs in the market for their personal or organizational benefit.

The CRA defines some "critical" PDEs for which there are specific and stricter rules. These critical products are split into two classes, with "class II" representing the highest cybersecurity risk. They are considered critical according to the intensity and breadth of the potential impact of the exploitation of vulnerabilities present in them. Special attention is given to whether they operate in sensitive environments or if they have essential functions where, for example, they process confidential data.

"Class I" PDEs include privileged access management software, password managers, standalone and embedded browsers, network management systems, and application configuration management systems, among many others. "Class II" PDEs include operating systems for servers, desktops and mobiles, general purpose microprocessors, and secure cryptoprocessors, among many others. Firewalls, intrusion detection or prevention systems, as well as routers, modems and switches, can belong to one class or the other; those for industrial use, for instance, would be in "class II."

Among the PDEs for which the CRA would not apply since other laws cover them would be products for medical use or for civil aviation, motor vehicles, national security or military purposes. Nor would it apply to cloud services such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) or to free and open-source software (FOSS) that were developed or supplied outside of commercial activity.

It would also rule out those PDEs placed on the market before this regulation comes into force unless, since then, they undergo significant modifications in their design, functionality, performance or purpose that affect their level of cybersecurity risk. What would certainly apply to all PDEs within the scope of this regulation that are on the market before that effective date is the reporting of vulnerabilities and incidents.

Obligations to be met by economic operators

The following requirements must be fulfilled by the manufacturers of the PDEs:

  • It's a must to carry out continuous risk assessments on products to ensure the absence of exploitable security vulnerabilities in their design, development and production stages. This would minimize risks and prevent many incidents and severe impacts. Delivery requirements would include, for example, products with secure default configuration, appropriate control mechanisms, encryption of sensitive data at rest and in transit, and storage and processing of only as much data as necessary.

  • As part of the risk assessments, the CRA highlights the importance of diligently managing the third-party software components integrated into the PDEs. Hence the requirement to undertake inventories of components and dependencies, also called software bill of materials (SBOMs).

  • Once PDEs are on the market, vulnerabilities identified in them should be remediated as soon as possible, and users should receive the corresponding patches or updates as well as germane descriptions and instructions. With regard to incidents, users should also be informed of them for quick reaction and, if possible, implementation of corrective measures.

  • Manufacturers must have and maintain adequate policies and procedures for the documentation, handling, remediation and disclosure of vulnerabilities in their products reported by internal and external sources.

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  • Vulnerabilities in exploitation or other cybersecurity incidents with PDEs must be reported to the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) within 24 hours of their identification. It is required to include details of the vulnerability and, if applicable, how it has been dealt with, or details of the incident, its impact, and possible causes.

  • As part of raising social awareness, PDE users should obtain information that goes beyond the functionality of these products and involves cybersecurity aspects to be borne in mind for their selection and use.

  • As explicit evidence of compliance with this regulation, each manufacturer must draw up and maintain an EU declaration of conformity. (The model structure with the required information appears in Annex IV of the CRA.) Before their product enters the market, they must also draw up technical documentation detailing the means used to ensure that their PDE complies with the fundamental requirements of this regulation (this documentation must be updated whenever necessary; see Annex V). Additionally, they must undergo conformity assessment processes (see Annex VI), which may result in the traditional CE marking, the only marking that should guarantee compliance with the CRA. In the case of critical class II PDEs, these assessments should involve an independent, competent and authorized third party.

Regarding importers and distributors, they must only bring to the market PDEs that comply with the fundamental requirements of this regulation. Should any of these economic operators discover the existence of a cybersecurity risk in a PDE with which they are associated, they must notify the manufacturer and the relevant authorities.

Possible penalties for infringement

The Member States shall define the penalties for infringement of the CRA by economic operators based on the following limits already established:

  • Failure to comply with the essential requirements may lead to administrative fines of up to €15M or, in the case of an undertaking, up to 2.5% of its total global revenues during the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.

  • As per the above logic, such values could be up to €10M or 2% of global revenue for cases of non-compliance with other regulatory obligations.

  • In cases of erroneous, insufficient or deceptive information provided to the relevant authorities, such fines could be up to €5M or 1% of global revenue.

When setting the amount of the administrative fine in each infringement case, the corresponding authority will consider aspects such as the severity and duration of the violation and its consequences, as well as the size and market share of the economic operator involved.

How is it going, and what's next?

This regulation would come into force a few days after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union, after its review and approval by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. It was initially stated that after 24 months from its commencement, the CRA would be fully applicable in the European market, but that after the first 12 months, manufacturers would have to comply with the obligation to report vulnerabilities and incidents. However, conditions such as these could change.

In July of this year, a press release was published informing about the review of the draft CRA by the Council of the EU and mentioning some of the suggested amendments. These were aimed at the scope of the regulation, the recipients of the reports about vulnerability exploitation and other incidents, the complexity of the declaration of conformity, support for small enterprises and micro-enterprises, and, as we said, the deadlines for the implementation of the CRA, among other things.

On this account, we believe that, for now, the most prudent thing to do is to wait for the parties involved to reach explicit and formal agreements that will be made public in an official document in order to be able to fully understand and begin to adopt the requirements that will come into effect with this regulation.

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