Are You Doing Enough to Build Trust in Our Connected World?

June 6, 2017

Christine Young  By: Christine Young
 Blogger, Maxim Integrated  


"In order to achieve the benefits of a connected world, you have to create trust in that connected world," Bill Diotte, CEO of Mocana, told the audience during the opening talks at this year's IoT DevCon.    

In the IoT world, security remains the top challenge. It was also a main theme as the conference kicked off on April 26 at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

In his talk, "Shifting the IoT Mindset from Security to Trust," Diotte told the crowd, "Mocana and all of us in this room today have a mission: as we build, we have to secure." Based in San Francisco, California, Mocana provides a comprehensive IoT security platform that protects more than 100 million IoT devices and ensures secure device-to-cloud communications. The problem, Diotte said, is that cybercrime has moved from credit card and password theft to the dismantling of infrastructure, cyber weaponization, and proxy warfare. Citing a report by Gartner, he noted that 20% of enterprise attacks will involve the IoT in 2020. In the face of these scary trends, the reality is, many of the engineers building smart, connected products don’t have adequate tools for proper security, Diotte said. Applying traditional IT model methods such as perimeter defenses, password protection only, or simple SSL connections to the IoT world simply doesn't work, he explained.

Bill Diotte from Mocana
Mocana's Bill Diotte addresses IoT security at this year’s IoT DevCon.

Fortunately, he said, there’s good awareness now around security, along with resources like secure chips, point solutions, and do-it-yourself methods. The problem here is, most of these options are disconnected, so it’s up to developers to stitch something together, which exposes systems to risk. Making matters even more challenging are the hundreds or even thousands of manual pages that time-strapped developers must read through if they want to, for instance, utilize the secure functions of a chip or align with the latest standards.

Clearly, a new approach is needed. "We believe it's about trust – creating from the ground up, hardening devices so we know they are trustworthy up to the gateway cloud," said Diotte.

What constitutes trust in the IoT world? Knowing that the device boots up in a known, secure state and has the right level of firmware is essential. Also important are having trusted updates, operation, and transport (from the device itself through the gateway to the cloud and back to the apps). Hardened devices and applications can make all of this possible. To that end, Mocana is building an ecosystem that allows developers to create trusted environments, whether those developers are creating secure chips, operating systems, apps, or end devices. The company's IoT Security DevKit, which runs on a Raspberry Pi board, features the Mocana IoT security stack, a strong crypto engine, SSL/SSH/Wi-Fi security, automated key and certificate management, and sample apps.

What happens if trust is broken? This year's IoT DevCon was paired with the inaugural Machine Learning DevCon, bringing together two of the biggest topics in tech. These topics are also very much intertwined. Analytics, Diotte noted, will continue to improve such that we will be able to take action in real time based on real-time analytics that indicate when there’s an unauthorized attempt to communicate with or update firmware on a device, for example.

"I thought Web 1.0 was the most amazing thing that could happen," said Diotte. "Today we're sitting on the precipice of an incredible opportunity – connected devices, applications, cars, homes, cities. It’s everybody’s responsibility to put into place systems that not only deliver amazing experiences but are hardened and protected."

Zero-Touch IoT Device Onboarding

Another security-related talk during the IoT DevCon keynote sessions came from Jennifer Gilburg, director of strategy, Internet of Things Identity at Intel. In “Zero-Touch Device Onboarding for IoT,” Gilburg discussed the drawbacks of today’s manual IoT device onboarding and offered a more secure method. Security needs to be integrated into products right from the start, beginning with a hardware root of trust and hardware security and building up from here, she said. Otherwise, there’s a risk that security won’t scale once we reach 20 billion IoT devices. Developers should also think about security across a device’s lifecycle, from the silicon at the fab to the OEM, installer (onboarding) and through provisioning, end user operation, and even decommissioning, she explained.

There's a new recognition that hardware delivers an essential foundation for security use cases. Intel develops its chips with security building blocks for protected boot and storage, hardware and software identities, and a trusted execution environment. Software makes data privacy, security management, platform integrity, and secure communications possible. Gilburg also discussed Intel Enhanced Privacy ID (Intel EPID), a group signature scheme that allows platforms to cryptographically sign objects while preserving the signer’s privacy. Each signer in the group has their own private key, but verifiers use the same group public key to verify individual signatures. Intel EPID is designed into all Intel silicon.

Jennifer Gilburg of Intel
Intel's Jennifer Gilburg explains a more secure process for onboarding IoT devices at this year’s IoT DevCon.

"We've kind of forgotten about privacy…and I blame Facebook for that," Gilburg said, laughing. With all of the data being shared today, developers need to consider the minimal amount of data that is needed in order to perform a task and collect only that data, she said.

In today's manual IoT onboarding process, once a device arrives on site, a technician installs it and turns it on and conducts manual provisioning. The IT backend accepts the device credentials, connects it to a device management system, and the device starts working. By contrast, a zero-touch onboarding process from Intel separates the roles. The installer sets up the device and IT takes control of the device to get it on the network and control platform. Proxy installation and provisioning are handled by an onboarding service with a unique identifier for device authentication. This approach is currently in a proof-of-concept phase as Intel collaborates with other entities in the IoT ecosystem to craft protocols and reference codes that enhance privacy, scale, and automate the process of device registration.

As everyday products get smarter and connected, it’s clear that developers have a big responsibility in ensuring that their designs are secure. To help ease the process of IoT device node authentication, Maxim offers an IoT embedded security reference design. Known as MAXREFDES155#, the reference design authenticates and controls a sensing node via elliptic-curve-based public-key cryptography.