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One-size-fits-all not enough to secure IoT

By Shannon Williams
Tue 2 Jul 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

A one-size-fits-all approach is not enough when it comes to securing the Internet of Things, according to Trusted Computing Group.

Steve Hanna, co-chair of TCG's Embedded Systems Work Group, speaking at the Embedded Technologies Expo and Conference 2019 in San Jose, says every kind of connected object must be assessed individually.
 
Hannah says the growing trend for greater connectivity puts everyday objects at risk of exploitation and makes mission critical systems in businesses and governments more vulnerable to attacks.

And while securing the IoT is often referred to as a singular movement, Hanna emphasised that every device had to be handled according to its individual needs, warning that there would be no single method that could be universally applied to safeguard devices.

"When you consider other security systems, for example a lock, what you would use for a front door is very different to what would be used for a bank or a Government building because the scale of an attack would be much greater and more complex in the case of the latter," he explains. 

"The same is true for computers and embedded systems; when we think about security, we have to think about different levels that correspond to the level of risk," Hanna says.

Hanna illustrated his point by comparing a baby monitor with a chemical plant, both of which are likely to become connected as standard in the near-future. For the latter, he said, the impact of an attack could be as serious as an explosion, which would ultimately endanger human life.

"While it is important to secure things like baby monitors, for example, to avoid the devices being used to eavesdrop on conversations, there is a price point that needs to be met as well," Hanna says. 

"No one is going to spend thousands of dollars on a baby monitor and for the manufacturers, that means the security solution needs to be less expensive," he explains. 

"In the case of a chemical plant, the risk is much greater, the level of attack is likely to be more sophisticated and a serious amount of money could have been invested in carrying it out. As a result, the security measures need to be much more stringent."

Hanna says that the customised security approach required by the Internet of Things can be easily achieved using technologies that are available today. 

"TCG's security standards are all based on the concept of Trusted Computing where a Root of Trust forms the foundation of the device and meets the specific requirements of the device or deployment," says Hanna.

"TCG's wide variety of security options provide the building blocks to create secure systems. In the case of a chemical plant, industrial-grade discrete TPM hardware can be built in not just into the plant's firewall but also into the control system.

"This will enable these systems to be monitored in real-time and for even sophisticated attacks to be identified and prevented," he says. 

"For devices which are less high-risk, TPM firmware can be created which has the same set of commands but is less rigorously secured and therefore more cost-effective. 

"Finally, for very tiny devices that can't afford TPM firmware, DICE offers a good alternative," adds Hanna.

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