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September 17, 2021
Re: A Consultation on a Modern Copyright Framework for Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things
Copyright and Cybersecurity Concerns
The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) is supportive of international copyright regimes that consistently offer protection of proprietary and technical information. Enhanced offerings for repair options can co-exist with a robust copyright protection scheme. Copyright protections are essential to 1) preserving safety, especially for electrical and electronic products; and 2) maintaining cybersecurity protections for internet-connected products.
Legislation that requires manufacturers to expose their code could lead to theft of intellectual property and, more importantly, expose customers to malware, theft of their personal information, and other security threats. Millions of consumer appliances could be at risk with a single ransomware attack. We have already seen ransomware attacks that impact public schools, pipelines and banks.
Any analysis that arises from the consultation on a Modern Copyright Framework for Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) must take cybersecurity concerns into account. Technological protection measures (TPMs) are necessary and appropriate to enhance the safety of electrical products. Such TPMs appropriately include encryption of software, passwords, and access codes designed to prevent cyber-intrusions. Some appliances use TPMs for cybersecurity reasons. Bypassing, tampering with, or modifying TPMs or its code is a significant cybersecurity and infrastructure risk and is the very reason the module exists. Another reason to use additional locking or protections to software is for safety critical functions to remain in compliance with government and safety organizations. However, the TPM may not prevent any interactions or disallow 3rd party tools from interfacing systems, as it only maintains the integrity of the code for safety and cybersecurity reasons.
Furthermore, Canada can look to states in the U.S., such as California and Oregon, whose cybersecurity requirements may conflict with any steps taken on right-to-repair. Both those states enacted new laws that require unique passwords or other “reasonable security requirements” that are not clearly defined. California, in particular, is a major market for appliance manufacturers who do business in both the U.S. and Canada. Inconsistencies and conflicting requirements between cybersecurity laws in California, Oregon and Canada could cause disruptions to the connected appliance market in the U.S. and Canada. Canada and the US should coordinate and seek to harmonize federal laws in this area to ensure cybersecurity in every home in North America. The internet has no boundaries.
To that end, AHAM proposed a set of cybersecurity requirements that provides robust cybersecurity while also allowing for flexibility in design and repairability, and we welcome the opportunity to provide additional detail on those proposals as this consultation progresses.
Appliance Service Technician is a skilled trade in Canada
There exists a widespread and established network of certified and affiliated home appliance servicers and repairers across Canada. The people who repair appliances across Canada are mostly the local independent “mom and pop” repair businesses in our cities and towns. Importantly, some appliances are repaired in the home.
The Appliance Service Technician trade has been an accredited Red Seal trade since 1994. The Red Seal Program sets common standards to assess the skills of tradespeople across Canada. It is a partnership between the federal government and provinces and territories, which are responsible for apprenticeship training and trade certification in their jurisdictions.
In accordance with Canada’s Electrical Code, Canada’s Gas Installation Code and the representative provincial and territorial regulations in regards to electrical and gas safety, we remind the Government of Canada and all provincial and territorial governments that in order to commercially offer for sale, repair, re-manufacture or install electrical, gas equipment and manage ozone depleting or flammable refrigerants in Canada, only qualified, licensed individuals are authorized to perform such procedures.
Appliance repairs, when not performed correctly, can lead to injury, property damage such as flooding and fires, insurance claims as well as increases in the homeowner’s insurance premiums. Consumers should be aware that if they repair appliances themselves, they should do it safely. For example, people should not touch the high voltage transformer in a microwave or accidently puncture a lithium battery because it could cause serious injury. Similarly, some appliances can remain electrified even after they are unplugged. Newer refrigerators and freezers contain refrigerants substances that have lower global warming potential; however, they are mildly flammable. Thus, precautions are necessary when dealing with these refrigerants and AHAM has safety guidelines for technicians. Proper training is needed to know how to properly mitigate these risks. In an increasingly connected world, repair technicians that lack proper certification and training may disregard security implications brought to light by requiring the release of firmware and other software systems within home appliances. Without the proper training, independent third party service providers could unknowingly expose consumers to cyber-threats while conducting un-secured repairs to these products.
AHAM represents manufacturers of major, portable and floor care home appliances, and suppliers to the industry. AHAM Canada represents more than 150 member companies that manufacture 90% of the major, portable and floor care appliances shipped for sale in Canada. Home appliances are the heart of the home, and AHAM members provide safe, innovative, sustainable and efficient products that enhance consumers’ lives.
The home appliance industry is a significant segment of the economy, measured by the contributions of home appliance manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers to Canadian economy. In all, the industry drives nearly $6 billion in economic output throughout Canada and manufactures products with a factory shipment value of more than $5 billion. Home appliances also are a success story in terms of energy efficiency and environmental protection. New appliances often represent the most effective choice a consumer can make to reduce home energy use and costs.
Additional comments received in February 2022
Cybersecurity Is A Top Priority—
Measures For Protecting Consumers Must Not Be Circumvented.
Some home appliances have smart and/or connected functionality. Accordingly, cybersecurity and privacy are top of mind for these products, including in their repair. Cybersecurity is a priority for home appliance manufacturers because of the product and consumer safety involved. Manufacturers provide cybersecurity through branded control firmware installed in the appliance that interacts with both physical and software components.
Home appliance manufacturers incorporate technological protection measures (TPMs) or digital locks in their appliances to protect the product and the consumer, physically and online. Installed firmware interacts with appliances' electronic, electrical, mechanical and logical segments and are in physical and digital configurations.
- Physical Configuration TPMs: protects appliance actual physical structure and physical safety
- Digital configuration TPMs: protect appliance firmware, software, programming settings and configuration parameters
When it comes to repair, AHAM members indicated servicers may have to access TPMs to diagnose a problem with an appliance, which may not be apparent upon the initial assessment. Accessing TPMs can involve using a diagnostic tool to connect to the appliance to understand where the problem lies. In most cases, further access to TPMs, including circumvention, is not needed. According to AHAM's survey, almost all repairs are mechanical in nature, requiring repair or replacement of physically damaged parts. There are no repair activities that would require the circumvention of installed TPMs, even in rare cases where electrical components (i.e. circuit boards) containing firmware are physically replaced or repaired. TPMs may, however, need to be accessed for software updates or corrections.
There is a difference between accessing TPMs and circumventing TPMs. Product safety and cybersecurity (product operation and personal information) are at risk with any type of circumvention of TPMs. A servicer or consumer without proper training and instruction to access TPMs and attempting to access appliances' firmware can lead to unknowingly or knowingly:
- Rendering the appliance unresponsive to certain operations, including most importantly, critical operations that prevent damage to the appliance or the area in the home where that appliance is located. TPMs protect critical safety actions such as switching to safe mode or shutdown to prevent further damage, automatically draining water from a dishwasher or clothes washer, or tripping the connected circuit breaker if needed.
- Causing the appliance to "lock up" because it will receive conflicting operational commands from different components.
- Leaving consumer data profiles and data transfers unsecured, making personal information and appliance operation commands vulnerable to outside sources, specifically malware and/or hackers.
In response to a survey, AHAM members indicated that, as part of their service agreement and orientation, affiliated servicers are taught about appliances' TPM firmware and how to interact with them to perform repairs, including properly and safely accessing TPMs without compromising security.
Incorrect or Inadequate Repairs Can Lead To Significant Safety Risks And Liability.
Senior Director, Government Relations