Few sounds represent an era like the grating, staticky, machine garble of a dialup modem of the early days of the internet. Pictures loaded painfully slowly. The dialup connection meant that family members couldn’t use the telephone because — and this might surprise kids today — we used landlines to talk to people.
How Things Have Changed!
Today, even the slowest internet connections would seem miraculous by early internet standards. Fast connections? Those pretty much are miraculous, allowing us to stream songs and video, transfer massive files, or video conference with colleagues and loved ones on other continents almost instantaneously. And these possibilities aren’t just for our computers; we can make these astonishing connections using our smartphones.
That’s just the beginning. Accelerated by the fast data speeds and super connectivity of the new 5G broadband rolling out, a new era is taking hold — the “internet of things” or IoT. In this new era, many of us will have dozens of devices that connect to cloud-based services, or to each other, or that perform their computations at the edge of the network. These devices include security systems, refrigerators, thermostats, printers, exercise systems, light dimmers, window blinds, utilities meters and entertainment systems. Outside the home, the IoT already includes smart watches that track calories or fitness goals and a litany of smartphone apps.
A New IoT World
Soon, the IoT will include more wearable technology and automated driver-assistance systems (ADAS) where the plan is to achieve self-driving cars in the next few years. IoT devices will become so widespread that, according to Statista, more than 75 billion devices will connect to the internet or cloud services by 2025. These devices will make us, our cars and our homes more comfortable, efficient, safe and entertained.
The proliferation of IoT devices has only started, said Jeff Shiner, market director of IoT Solutions at Micron. Companies, including Micron customers and enablers, are already developing the next wave of new and exciting IoT devices. The many and varied approaches to securing the IoT, however, can bring challenges.
“Technology fragmentation is a major barrier to strong cybersecurity in IoT devices,” said Shiner. “Our core approach is to build security into the flash silicon — add key roots of trust and verification capabilities into the standard flash memory, which you find in virtually all intelligent systems.”
Managing Security Risks From Devices
Any device or app that connects to a network is vulnerable to hackers, viruses, malware and data-tracking software. However, where banks or online retailers generally take great precaution in limiting hackers’ entry into their systems, a lot of edge IoT devices do not. In the IoT world, the ecosystem of your devices is only as strong as the weakest link. That smart fridge or smart printer can “open the door” and provide hackers access to more crucial and sensitive systems and personal information.
Hackers are already exposing these vulnerabilities. In 2018, what started as a harmless fan campaign to make PewDiePie the most subscribed YouTube channel turned more sinister. Messages encouraging people to subscribe to the channel started printing on vulnerable printers connected to the internet — unsolicited — raising fears that the next such attack wouldn’t be as harmless.
Micron mitigates these exposures with a silicon-based security-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that will help make sure that fewer PewDiePie printer stories happen. According to Shiner, “There are all these vulnerabilities, and nobody has a good answer because they’ve been so focused on encryption. But by leveraging silicon-based roots and a cloud service for security activation, it will be much simpler for system OEMs to establish early and strong protection of devices in the manufacturing stage and throughout a product’s lifecycle.”
Building the Trust Chain
Most cybersecurity efforts rely on software to repel hackers and viruses. (You’ve probably run antivirus software on your laptop.) Those types of scans and firewalls can be effective to the degree they are trusted and protected from change by a hardware root of trust or a secure element function. With no such function for protection, nothing prevents a hacker from modifying or bypassing the software altogether. In short, software alone cannot stop security attacks.
Adding the secure element function in memory has the potential to shut down that kind of fraudulent lateral access. It adds a strong and independent layer of protection within the flash component. Micron realized how many IoT devices have flash memory and decided to integrate a secure element function as a standard hardware platform, called AuthentaTM . Authenta is the logic function inside the flash that grants or denies access to the critical assets or data within the flash. Micron’s Authenta Key Management Service (KMS) is a cloud services solution that works in conjunction with Authenta-enabled flash memory to activate and configure the Authenta features in the flash, which performs security “hardening” in the IoT device or endpoints.
What’s more, Authenta and other secure memory solutions strive to recognize when something is amiss and reset the function to normal. This was proven possible during Micron simulations using factory robots. In the simulations, robots were hacked and their work routines disrupted. While the robots protected by software firewalls became infected and then transmitted the virus to other machines, the robots with secure hardware (that is, protecting data at the source, with a secure element function with the key built in to flash memory during manufacturing) recognized that there were abnormalities and rebooted using their original, safe protocols.
“That kind of self-healing could be a game-changer for protecting industry as well as for securing home devices,” Shiner said. For example, the health care industry has faced several high-profile hacks, including attacks in which ransomware held hospitals hostage. Devices with secure memory could improve the odds for hospitals to avoid such crisis.
Micron is also working with partners to develop secure intelligent edge solutions built for the ever-expanding data deluge. Check out this white paper, The Secure Intelligent Edge, about how Micron’s innovations at the edge — enhanced by Tempered Networks and integrated by P2 Solutions Group —- provide secure intelligent edge solutions.
Whether the data collected at the IoT and various endpoints involves full motion video, wide area motion imagery, electronic signals, chemistry, communications or other data/signal types, Micron’s secured machine learning and deep learning capabilities can help automate signal processing, exploitation and dissemination. Added Shiner, “Authenta can enable applications using virtually any tactical, mobile or other edge platform to provide integrated intelligence support for larger operations centers wherever they are needed.”
Secure memory solutions are one key to securing IoT devices; software is another. But the most important key is you, the end user.
Tips for Securing Your IoT Ecosystem
Although Micron offers its Authenta silicon-based SaaS technology, IoT security is an important concern for all parties involved. In many cases, developers of smart gadgets for homes, vehicles and beyond haven’t been giving the same level of attention to their security as, say, to PCs or financial apps. That must change in the coming years as IoT devices become ubiquitous and touch most aspects of our daily lives.
The onus for digital security starts with device manufacturers, but it extends to you, the end user. Here’s a quick list of tips to keep hackers and malware out of your IoT ecosystem:
- Give your home router a name — Choose a router name that is not associated with your address or that gives away any personal identifiers.
- Encrypt your Wi-Fi — Use a strong encryption method, such as WPA2, when you set up your network.
- Set up a guest network — Don’t share your Wi-Fi password with anybody. Create a guest network for guests that doesn’t tap into your IoT system.
- Change default usernames and passwords — Assume that hackers know preset usernames and passwords. Create your own and make sure that IoT devices allow you to create new passwords before you buy them.
- Secure IoT devices with unique passwords — Create unique passwords using a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. “Password,” “123456,” “P@ssw0rd,” or even “Blink182,” (as clever as it may seem) aren’t going to keep your IoT devices safe.
- Check device settings — Take the time to familiarize yourself with device settings and change them to your preference. Some default security settings actually benefit the manufacturer more than they benefit you, the user.
- Disable features you don’t need — If you don’t need a device to communicate with others, disable their access to one another.
- Regularly update your software — When 5G is available in your area, don’t put off installing updates for your smartphone or other devices. Updates often include security enhancements reacting to new malware, and 5G will bring an amazing set of upgrades in speed, security, quick response and more.
- Check on older devices — Consider upgrading to newer, safer gadgets since many older IoT devices offer no or weak security, and they might not be 5G compliant.
- Embrace two-step authentication — Two-factor authentication, also called 2FA, greatly bolsters security and comes in a variety of types.
Keep up with what’s new in secure IoT. Micron’s security by design simplifies device management and does it without requiring you to add new hardware components.