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Drop-In Security for IoT Edge Devices


Jul. 10, 2018 – You're excited about the business potential for your cool new baby monitor, geo-fenced kid's watch, home security system or whatever breakthrough app you want to build. You want to focus on the capabilities of the system, connecting it to the cloud and your marketing rollout plan. Then someone asks whether your system is architected to be secure. Do you really need to worry about this in your low-cost consumer product? They keep on pushing, bringing up the Mirai botnet attack on the Dyn domain name server in 2016, which DDOS-bombed many major sites. Notably, that botnet was launched through cameras and baby-monitors, among other devices.


Much of the problem was traced back to webcams made by Hangzhou XiongMai Technology, widely and publicly revealed to have weak security. That company made an attempt to correct the problem by recalling up to 10,000 of their devices. Add to that cost the reputational damage from worldwide publication of the discovery (if their devices are easy to hack, maybe creeps can watch my family at home?), likely industry moves to self-preservation and/or regulatory control to shut-out unsafe devices, and you start to see that ignoring security may not be a wise move.

OK, you get it, you'd better add security. But this is not a domain for amateurs. Security is hard – very hard. Software-only security may seem an easy solution but is the most attractive target for hackers; a whole industry (q.v. BlackHat) and hordes of enthusiastic amateurs are dedicated to finding obscure holes in software and building exploits to attack them; hardware-based solutions are generally more robust. Since you're building hardware anyway, maybe you can throw in a crypto core and TrustZone control on the bus? I'll say again – security is hard. Your crypto core can be hacked through power side-channels and TrustZone works only if you don't make mistakes in what and when you connect. Then there are issues with over-the-air (OTA) software updates, secure boot, etc, etc. The list seems endless – and is always growing.

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