The effort follows a surge in cyber attacks leveraging easy-to-exploit vulnerabilities in webcams, routers, digital video recorders and other connected devices, which are sometimes collectively referred to as the internet of things. 

"Personal cyber security and privacy is a big deal for everyone. This is urgently needed,” said Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist who sits on the board of directors at Consumer Reports.

In one high-profile October attack, hackers used a piece of software known as Mirai to cripple an internet infrastructure provider, blocking access to PayPal, Spotify, Twitter and dozens of other websites for hours. Another attack in November shut off internet access to some 900,000 Deutsche Telekom customers.

Security researchers have said the attacks are likely to continue because there is little incentive for manufacturers to spend on securing connected devices.