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.
Consumer Reports, an influential U.S. non-profit group that conducts extensive reviews of cars, kitchen appliances and other goods, is gearing up to start considering cyber security and privacy safeguards when scoring products. The group, which issues scores that rank products it reviews, said on Monday it had collaborated with several outside organizations to develop methodologies for studying how easily a product can be hacked and how well customer data is secured. Consumer Reports will gradually implement the new methodologies, starting with test projects that evaluate small numbers of products, Maria Rerecich, the organization's director of electronics testing, said in a phone interview.