IoT Security – A Holistic Approach


IoT Security – A Holistic Approach


I suspect many Internet of Things solution providers have a goal similar to ours – to maintain customer trust and confidence by ensuring the integrity, availability and confidentiality of customer data. IoT solutions are complex, with many possible points of failure and any company can be the target of a security breach.

Customers are often looking for a “security solution” or vendors who have “secure solutions.” However, there is no single solution since it is essential to look at the entire system holistically and address security at each potential point of failure. As shown in Figure 1, security can fail at any point from the sensors to the cloud to the business application.

Figure 1
Think holistically – security must be addressed at many points of an IoT solution

In order to safely address all possible points of failure, security must be a fundamental part of the overall architecture of an IoT system. IoT system architects must account for the specific challenges of distributed, unattended, mobile devices and implement security both end-to-end and in each individual element.

Consider the following best practices to ensure complete IoT system security:

• Build solutions based on open and industry standards

• Leverage proven IT/enterprise class security technologies

• Include security, scalability and resiliency in design from day one

• Encapsulate the complexity of an end-to-end security solution

• Continuously test and audit the system

Device and service authentication: The IoT requires remote sensors, actuators, and smart devices to be integrated with business and mobile applications. To ensure that devices, systems and applications can trust their respective counterparts it is necessary to identify and authenticate the connected devices in the field as well as the cloud/server side. Authentication can be achieved for example by offering X.509 certificate-based authentication for individual devices by integrating powerful PKI functionality in the IoT platform. PKI is widely recognized as the one of the strongest authentication mechanisms and is therefore a solid foundation for many security elements that protect the IoT solution from the remote device to the business application.

Secure execution environment: Although also true for the server, the ability to manage and execute applications remotely in the field is essential in many IoT applications. For example, over-the-air provisioning and software updates have to be secured. From a technical perspective Open Services Gateway Alliance (OSGi), signed code, and secure boot are just some of the architectural elements that ensure the integrity and security of the overall solution.

Data security: Within the system, data security is the most important aspect to consider. Secure transmission of all data via encryption over an SSL connection is essential. All Console and REST API access must only be exclusively available over an encrypted HTTPS connection. State-of-the-art data centers that utilize the most current architectural and engineering approaches are ideal. All databases should be protected from external access through strict firewall rules. Data should be segregated by account.

Identity and access management: Confidentiality and integrity can be ensured through a role-based access control model and access control lists that follow the Principle of Least Privilege and are enforced through all the layers of the architecture. Each account manages a list of users and controls the user’s credentials. Eurotech’s Everyware Cloud, for example, has a configurable lockout policy per account, which may block a user’s credentials after a certain number of failed login attempts. Logins to Everyware Console can be further protected through the use of a Two Factor Authentication (2FA).

Vulnerability management: Independent certified security firms perform remote vulnerability assessments, including network/host and applications. Vulnerability scanning should be conducted regularly and after any major changes to the infrastructure and environment. Of course addressing any critical security issues found including communicating the problem and solution is important.

Remember, when thinking about IoT security, although data security is essential, do not forget all of those other potential points of failure. From the most remote device in the desert to the backend business system, every part of the IoT solution must be secure.

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