In the wake of the Wannacry ransomware, University of Pennsylvania researcher Sandy Clark has proposed something along these lines: firmware expiration dates. Clark argues that we've already figured out how to standardize our relationships with automobiles, with mandated regular inspection, maintenance and repairs governed by manufacturer recalls, DOT highway maintenance, and annual owner-obligated inspections. As such, she suggests similar requirements be imposed on internet-connected devices:
A requirement that all IoT software be upgradeable throughout the expected lifetime of the product. Many IoT devices on the market right now contain software (firmware) that cannot be patched even against known vulnerabilities.
A minimum time limit by which manufacturers must issue patches or software upgrades to fix known vulnerabilities.
A minimum time limit for users to install patches or upgrades, perhaps this could be facilitated by insurance providers (perhaps discounts for automated patching, and different price points for different levels of risk)."
Of course, none of this would be easy, especially when you consider this is a global problem that needs coordinated, cross-government solutions in an era where agreement on much of anything is cumbersome. And like previous suggestions, there's no guarantee that whoever crafted these requirements would do a particularly good job; that overseas companies would be consistently willing to comply; or that these mandated software upgrades would actually improve device security. And imagine being responsible for determining all of this for the 50 billion looming internet connected devices worldwide?
That's why many networking engineers aren't looking so much at the devices as they are at the networks they run on. Network operators say they can design more intelligent networks that can quickly spot, de-prioritize, or quarantine infected devices before they contribute to the next Wannacry or historically-massive DDoS attack. But again, none of this is going to be easy, and it's going to require multi-pronged, multi-country, ultra-flexible solutions. And while we take the time to hash out whatever solution we ultimately adopt, keep in mind that the 50 million IoT device count projected by 2020--is expected to balloon to 82 billion by 2025.