Can you really risk rolling your own IoT security?

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of blog posts discussing security issues faced by IoT businesses today. Links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this page.

For many organizations, creating a custom IoT hardware and software solution seems to offer compelling benefits. The opportunity to create a “just-so” solution with the exact power, computing, and size needed—no more or less than what’s needed in the final product—may seem, at first, cost-effective in terms of both cost of goods and technical development.

However, there are multiple factors to consider.

First, your product development team will need to bring IoT security expertise in-house. You’ll need to understand what it takes to secure IoT hardware, software, and communications  from multiple vendors against malicious attacks in a constantly changing security landscape. This will add significantly to your development budget.

Second, developing your own IoT security will take up your developers’ limited time—time they could be using to create differentiated products with must-have features.

Third, a consequence of implementing security technology in-house will be slower time to market. You might miss out on opportunities to introduce new IoT products and concepts ahead of the competition.  

Here are some of the things you’ll need to consider if you want to go it alone regarding IoT security.

Your devices must defend themselves

To ensure attackers cannot replace or modify software, your IoT devices must be able to defend themselves by detecting and preventing unauthorized software from running on them. To do this, you need to develop secure boot and secure OTA capabilities tied to a hardware root of trust, and enforcement mechanisms to ensure only proper, digitally-signed code can operate on the devices. You also need to implement secure storage on your devices to protect the encryption keys used to sign your software—there is an active global marketplace for stolen code-signing keys. Finally, signing keys should always be stored in a hardware security module (HSM) to prevent theft.

Your  devices and cloud must securely identify themselves

Rogue devices which mimic your products can consume costly cloud resources. To prevent rogue devices from authenticating to your cloud you need to equip legitimate devices with X.509 public key certificates. These certificates can be used by your cloud to uniquely identify each device connected to it. However, using X.509 certificate authentication can greatly complicate IoT device manufacture and design. You must acquire certificates from trusted certificate authorities and inject a unique X.509 certificate into each device during the manufacturing process. If you use a third-party to manufacture a custom chip, you expose the certificate authority’s signed certificate and the corresponding private keys to outside parties – a major security risk.

You must make the right crypto choices

Deploying encryption is a very tricky business. Inexperienced developers may be unaware that certain security standards have been superseded with new versions that address known security risks. For example, choosing an outdated Transport Layer Security (TLS) standard may permit a man-in-the-middle attack, allowing someone to eavesdrop on device-cloud communications. And it’s not easy to correct such a mistake once you’ve gone into production and deployed devices.

Save time and money while reducing risk

Given the complexities of building your own security system, using a mature IoT platform that already provides edge-to-cloud security with integrated hardware, software, and cloud services can be less expensive, more reliable, and faster to market than a custom-built IoT solution.

The Samsung ARTIK platform includes pre-certified, production-ready hardware modules, enterprise-quality cloud features, and technical support and a robust partner ecosystem. And its integrated security platform provides overlapping defense and security mechanisms that protect against intrusion, malware, and other malicious threats.

Most ARTIK modules include a Common Criteria certified EAL5 hardware Secure Element optimized for IoT and pre-provisioned with X.509 certificates and corresponding keys inside protected storage. The certificates are injected during manufacture at the Samsung factory, and never exposed to third parties.

ARTIK uses Transport Layer Security (TLS 1.2) and industry-standard cryptographic algorithms to protect communication between devices and the cloud. ARTIK modules also provide hardware acceleration (Crypto Engine) for AES and RSA encryption and decryption. Additionally, the ARTIK platform uses Elliptic Curve Diffie–Hellman (ECDH) for session encryption key generation, which provides a high level of protection with low power consumption.

The Samsung ARTIK platform allows you to cost-effectively build new, secure IoT prototypes and market-ready products that connect intelligently and securely to other smart devices and the cloud. In short, it lets you quickly transform your IoT concepts into secure, trustworthy solutions, without needing to become an IoT security expert.

Previous blogs in this series: