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Trusting the Internet of Things – By Juan Carlos Lazcano

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Author: Juan Carlos Lazcano, Vice-President of M2M for North American, 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 of connectivity. With ubiquitous connectivity, simplified development kits and the cost of sensors, equipment and services shrinking, innovation seems only inhibited by the imagination – until the hackers show up!

Until a year or two ago, IoT security was largely ignored. Then, in July 2015, Wired Magazine kicked off a media tsunami with a ‘white hat’ Jeep hack that demonstrated the vulnerabilities and dangers of unsecured connected vehicles. Other high profile attacks continued to emerge exposing the weaknesses in technologies ranging from connected baby monitors and home appliances to mHealth devices. Today, the industry takes IoT security very seriously with an expected CAGR Of 34.4% growing from USD 6.62 Billion in 2017 to USD 29.02 Billion by 2022.

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, IoT communication modules, valuable data communicated over networks, 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 or more years. The general absence of human intervention only serves to heighten the risks if solutions lack access to regular updates.

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 any IoT solution. IoT developers need to approach connectivity with the same intelligence as IT system integrators and realize that potential threats reside in application software, wireless networks and hardware components – all need to be protected.

IoT 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 it’s linked to smart building networks that control other elements in the facility – things like the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system, plumbing, building security, etc. Technology solutions, typically a combination of software and hardware, are then put in place to prevent the elevator from becoming an open door that could give entry 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.

Elements of Secure IoT Solutions

Their are four fundamental elements of effective security common to all IoT applications and vertical markets – from smart cities to connected cars to smart home appliances:

1. Authentication/identification – each device in the IoT ecosystem needs to be able to identify itself and prove its entitlement to access the system

2. Confidentiality – data transmitted must be encrypted effectively, ensuring it has no value to anyone stealing it

3. Integrity – ensuring that what is sent is what is meant to be sent

4. Non-repudiation – incontrovertible proof of the validity and origin of all data transmitted

These fundamental principals can be realized through hardware devices including Secure Elements, SIMs and MIMs (Machine Identification Modules) and software platforms such as Trusted Key Manager solutions, strong authentication solutions, biometrics and encryption solutions.

Building End-to-End Trust in the IoT Ecosystem

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 including cellular, LoRa and others), the data itself, and the Cloud Platform that runs applications and stores data. A variety of countermeasures can be used across these four pillars including hardware components, strong identification and authentication solutions and encryption technology:

1. Protect the device by selecting IoT modules and identification modules (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 solutions that ensure only authorized users and applications are granted access. A Trusted Key Manager can automatically facilitate a secure digital handshake between networks and devices and applications wanting to connect. In some IoT solutions like connected cars and wearbles, biometrics such as fingerprints and face recognition are being used to authenticate drivers and authorized users of embedded payment solutions. In addition, advanced over the air subscription management platforms can enable secure service provisioning and network connectivity management plus security updates over the lifetime of any deviceProtect the data with strong 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.

3. Protect the data with strong 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.

4. Protect the cloud environment by encrypting operating software and securely store encryption keys in a separate location. Access controls can be implemented in both the cloud and the data center to ensure authorized applications and people have access to the cloud. And software can be deployed to unlock specific features to different authorized stakeholders offering a way to monetize different applications.

A Lifetime of Integrity

Best practices for securing the IoT must 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 over the air updates and forward migration 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, government, and healthcare can also be applied with 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 or a fingerprint. 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 the IoT to truly fulfill its potential, OEMs and developers need to appreciate that success ultimately rests in ensuring that people trust it. We need to create 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.

To learn more about the essential elements of successful IoT, click here to read about IoT Connectivity in part one of Gemalto’s three part series.

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Juan Lazcano

About Juan Lazcano

Juan is responsible for developing Gemalto’s M2M and security portfolio and delivering solutions to device manufacturers and system integrators. Providing strong expertise in mobile communication, Juan was formerly Vice President of Telecommunication Sales at Gemalto where he handled mobile payments accounts and innovative connectivity projects for global mobile network operators and service providers. He joined Gemalto in 1998 and has held various positions in business development and marketing in the U.S and in Latin America. Prior to Gemalto, Juan was a systems consultant and Internet service manager for Monterrey Tec and a consultant for Softtek. He received a Bachelor’s degree in electronics and a Masters degree in Management of Information Systems, both from Monterrey Tec.