A Foundation of Trust for the Internet of Things

Blog by Gemalto

The Internet of Things, with its promise of improved productivity, time and cost efficiency and simplified process, has a force of gravity that is attracting enterprises and organizations across a huge array of industries. Connected cars, smart homes, wearable technologies, smart cities – even smart beehives are reaping the benefits 24/7 connectivity. With simplified development kits and the cost of sensors, equipment and services shrinking, innovation seems only inhibited by the imagination – until the hackers show up.

This past summer, Wired Magazine kicked off a media storm with a Jeep hack that demonstrated the vulnerabilities and dangers of unsecured connected vehicles. Other high profile attacks continue to emerge daily exposing the vulnerabilities of technologies ranging from connected baby monitors and home appliances to mHealth devices. With fear of hacking mounting, the industry is beginning to realize that IoT security is a very serious concern.

Secured data transferUntil recently, the majority of IoT OEMs and developers treated security as an afterthought and an added expense. According to VDC Research, nearly 70 percent of OEMs said security was important to design but only 30 percent made changes to people, process or tools to improve it. However, the consequences of reactive security can be far-reaching with serious repercussions including sensitive business and customer data breeches, fraud, disruption of services, and long-term damage to corporate and brand reputations.

Trust No Thing
To secure our developing IoT ecosystem, we need to accept at the outset that anything that can be hacked will be hacked. There is no shortage of talented and sophisticated hackers that will exploit a weak link for personal gain, high-level criminal operations, cyber-terrorism, passion or purely for kicks. And the very nature of IoT applications makes them vulnerable to attack. They share a number of common elements that are susceptible to digital intrusion: a series of remote sensors, machine-to-machine communication modules, valuable data, application software, servers, cloud-based platforms and storage facilities. In addition, IoT devices are designed for extended product lifecycles and deployments typically operate for ten years or more. The general absence of human intervention only serves to heighten the risks.

Security by Design
Just as one would never build a home without a foundation, connected device design must begin with intelligent security architecture as the foundation of trust in the IoT. IoT developers need to approach connectivity with the same intelligence as IT system integrators and realize that potential threat resides in application software, wireless networks and hardware components and all need to be protected.

Risk Assessment
The obvious first step is thorough risk assessment to determine what elements need protection and at what levels. Threats need to be assessed at every point in the ecosystem so that seemingly harmless elements do not become an open the door to other systems, data banks and networks. Take, for example, a system designed to remotely monitor and manage maintenance of an elevator in an office block. Risk assessment identifies if the elevator is a discrete, stand alone solution, or if its linked to wider building networks that control other elements in the facility such as the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Technology is then put in place to prevent the elevator from becoming an open door that could lead to other systems. The risk assessment evaluates potential breeches at all levels and measures the potential damage caused by a failure to determine what security architecture is needed.

Building End-to-End Trust
Trust must be embedded in all elements of an IoT system: the device/machine (module/sensor), the network (which may use a range of different transmission technologies), the data itself and the Cloud platform on which it is stored. A variety of countermeasures can be used across all elements including hardware components, strong identification and authentication solutions and encryption technology:

1) Protect the device by selecting connectivity and identification modules (M2M Modules and MIMs) that are optimized for long lifecycles and ruggedized for extreme environmental conditions of industrial deployments. In some cases, tamper-resistant embedded secure elements are integrated to store credentials and data in a dedicated, secure platform and to add a layer of physical and digital protection against intrusion.

2) Protect the network by implementing strong authentication and encryption solutions that ensure only authorized users and applications are granted access. Data needs to be encrypted while in motion on the network. Advanced over the air subscription management can be leveraged to enable secure service provisioning and network connectivity management plus security updates over the lifetime of any device.

3) Protect the data and cloud platforms with encryption technology and securely store and manage encryption keys in a safe server. Encrypted data is useless without the keys. Authentication and identification solutions ensure that only authorized people and applications have access to data and the cloud. And software can be deployed to unlock specific features for different authorized stakeholders. This offers a way to monetize applications and protect intellectual property and licensing agreements.

The fundamentals of effective security are common to all elements of the ecosystem and all vertical market applications:

  • Authentication/identification each device or application needs to be able to identify itself and prove its entitlement to access the system
  • Confidentiality data transmitted must be encrypted effectively, ensuring it has no value to anyone stealing it
  • Integrity transmissions must be validated to ensure that what is sent is what is meant to be sent
  • Non-repudiation solutions need to provide incontrovertible proof of the validity and origin of all data transmitted

A Lifetime of Integrity
Best practices for securing the IoT must also include provisions to continually update security architecture to address emerging threats. Wireless networks and technology evolves quickly in our fast paced world and so do cyber threats. OEMs and developers need to approach security with the same intelligence as IT system integrators and build systems that allow forward migration and over the air updates over the long lifetime of devices.

Though security may seem a daunting challenge to IoT enterprises, the good news is the same principles and techniques used in sensitive industries including banking, telecommunication and healthcare can also be used with some custom engineering to protect and defend the IoT. For example, in a banking card transaction, the device (a credit card), identifies itself with data stored in a secure environment (the chip), and is verified by a PIN. Transmitted data is encrypted to protect it from fraudulent attacks and it underpins the highest standards of integrity and non-repudiation. As a result, stakeholders have the confidence to trust the ecosystem. The same type of technology optimized for M2M and IoT applications can be applied to provide a trusted execution environment from which to identify the device on the network and to support encrypted transmission of data.

For IoT deployments to truly fulfill their potential, OEMs and developers need to appreciate that success ultimately rests in creating ecosystems that are as dynamic as they are trusted – and as open and accessible to new providers and end users as they are resistant to the myriad of threats that now occupy cyberspace.

For more information please visitwww.gemalto.com

Visit the Gemalto Booth at the 2016 IoT North America Conference, April 13-14, 2016 – Chicago, Ill. www.iotna.com

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