In today’s increasingly connected world, it is more important than ever to ensure that our IoT and embedded devices have robust security measures in place. However, as discussed in Part I of this series, safeguarding our data, assets, and devices from malicious attacks or vulnerabilities is not always that simple. Here, we delve into ways to protect confidentiality, integrity, and availability – so that we can continue developing and using IoT devices and networks to improve and simplify our lives.

Protecting Confidentiality

First, let’s take a look at how to overcome  a common and threatening issue: failure to protect confidentiality on your IoT or embedded systems networks. 

Here are a few examples:

Cryptographic authentication prevents unauthorized access to data, services, and devices via secret keys and/or digital certificates. This ensures that data is only received and delivered by validated entities.

Secure Elements (SEs) are tamper-resistant hardware components that are soldered onto smart devices and they are used to store sensitive data and can prevent the theft of device IDs and access to applications.

Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs) combine dedicated hardware and software to segment code execution from your main operating system or network. TEEs can be used to prevent access to sensitive code.

Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) are tamper-proof units that can be used to secure device access keys. They are often used as part of security lifecycle management to protect systems like electrical grids and government infrastructure.

Lifecycle management is used in conjunction with secure elements, trusted execution environments, and hardware security to issue and revoke device and application access credentials, as well as to update and manage network and device firmware and software. It can prevent the theft of device IDs and unauthorized device and data access.

Data encryption is used to prevent parties without access to a decoding key or anyone not included on a pre-approved authorization list from reading data.

User and developer training is an IoT security best practice, and ensures that everyone who uses your networks understands the importance of security and knows how to prevent attacks within the realm of the work they do on the network or within your organization.

Protecting Integrity

To protect data and system integrity, implement the security steps below.

Secure booting verifies that code running on a device has not been changed or tampered with. This can prevent firmware and operating system hacks.

Message Authentication Code (MAC) is a special block of code that proves the origin and validity of communications. Only messages that meet MAC constraints should be trusted.

Data encryption is used to complicate and frustrate any unauthorized attempts at data tampering or access, and can preserve data integrity in the same way it protects confidentiality.

Digital/cryptographic certificates and signatures can be used to ensure that firmware and/or application code or network messages are genuine and safe before they may run on a device or on your network.

Protecting Availability

Network availability refers to the average amount of time in which your network is up and running smoothly. Availability can be affected by anything from a DDoS attack to a disgruntled employee, malware, and power outages, all of which can seriously harm your systems, especially those that must maintain high availability. 

You can use the following techniques to ensure system uptime:

Firewalls to screen and validate inbound and outbound traffic.

Intrusion Protection Systems (IPSs) that safeguard your systems and devices from malicious or disruptive access.

Intrusion Detection Systems (IDSs) that are used to flag unusual activity.

DDoS prevention services that use hardened devices and infrastructure to preserve system continuity and availability in the event of a distributed denial of service attack.

Key Security Concepts

As mentioned above, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for your IoT and embedded device security needs – you must identify and evaluate the unique challenges and requirements facing your system and assess possible solutions.  

Still, any overarching IoT security strategy should include the four critical components below:

Securing Devices

You cannot run an IoT network without devices and users. Value creation in IoT and embedded smart device systems is based on the data generation and interactions of your users and devices.

Make sure your network security includes all of the following:

  • Device identification and authentication using unique and private digital identities to prevent unauthorized access or manipulation.
  • Authenticating firmware and application code.
  • Encrypting data throughout its journey within your IoT network.

Securing Gateways, Networks, Applications, and Users

Gateways and network devices allow IoT data to be shared between networks, applications, and other devices. These include IoT sensors, actuators, and smart edge devices.

Cloud applications are often used to provide IoT networks with the heavy computing resources needed to analyze IoT data retrospectively or in real-time to improve device performance and to empower smarter business decision-making. Users and third-party platforms and applications must be verified, and these communications must be encrypted.

Security by Design

IoT security does not require complex or radical new security ideas. Your IoT security should simply be founded on best practices that cover all areas of your IT activities. As such, security by design is more of an approach than a specific hardware or software implementation.

You should view your devices, systems, and networks holistically to get a better idea of the security vulnerabilities you may face and what you can do to address each potential issue that your pre-deployment risk assessment identifies.

Security Lifecycle Management

To ensure the continuity of security, you must regularly update devices, software, user passwords, firmware, and security policies.

Where Should I Start?

Some consumers prefer to gain in-house security experience by designing and deploying appropriate security measures and ID management systems based on industry standards. There are many cryptographic encryption solutions and lifecycle management platforms on the market, but it is important to consider that doing things yourself can lead to slower times to market, and a single point of failure can be detrimental to IoT and network security.

An alternative is to consult with an IoT security specialist. It can be difficult to establish and deploy IoT best practices yourself due to the diversity of IoT devices and networks and the many surfaces that may be open to attack within your organization. Furthermore, security is an ongoing endeavor and requires regular maintenance and oversight.

A specialist can help with the following:

  • Designing your IoT implementation from the ground up with built-in flexibility and security.
  • Implementing lifecycle management to ensure regular code, firmware, user, and application security and patching.
  • Encrypting data and identifying and responding to tampering, theft, or unauthorized access.
  • Developing an objective security risk assessment based on your needs and the industry you operate in.
  • Developing a custom solution with scalable, end-to-end security based on the devices you have and the applications that run on them.
  • Building defense in depth throughout your system architecture, from end-point devices to the cloud.
  • Enjoying faster times to market thanks to industry-specific knowledge and conformity with applicable standards.
  • Enjoying business continuity thanks to regular and comprehensive remote security lifecycle management.

Final Thoughts

End-to-end encryption (to protect data traveling on your networks), data protection in storage (to prevent unauthorized access and manipulation), and strong authentication and identity management (to ensure only authorized devices and users interact with, create, send, and/or receive network data) are critical for the success of any IoT or embedded systems network. A single point of failure can be detrimental to your IoT efforts and can have substantial long-term impacts on your business. While the benefits of security outweigh the costs, it can be difficult to identify the level of security you need and the potential points of failure that warrant immediate investment in protective measures.

That’s where we can help. To learn more about how Kajeet and our IoT and Embedded Systems Engineers can assist you, contact us here. From systemwide audits for known vulnerabilities to implementing best practices and industry standards, we help secure your data and systems from the edge to the cloud.