Embedded World 2017 – IoT coming of age.

by Cesare Garlati – Chief Security Strategist, prpl Foundation

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Embedded World 2017 in Germany as I was invited to give a couple of presentations on the pioneering work we have been doing at the prpl Foundation with regards to the prplHypervisor™ and prplPUF™ APIs for securing IoT. As it turns out, IoT was the top line at the conference that drew in more than 30,000 trade visitors – and the event solidified the notion that embedded computing is now synonymous with IoT.

IoT Security: Pushing the boundaries of resource constrained devices

The main theme running throughout was the challenge of pushing resource constrained devices to the limits. From a tech provider’s perspective, this was the most pervasive, well-defined issue being tackled at the show – how do we push the capabilities when it comes to functionality and security in low power devices with limited memory and minimal CPU resources?

With IoT, applying security technology after the fact or using encryption as used in a traditional security model is simply not an option in devices that don’t have the battery power, memory or CPU to support such measures, much less being able to afford the expense when the device itself costs so little. Yet, the fact that these are physical devices makes them so much more dangerous to human life and therefore the security should be taken just as seriously as that of a data centre.

Open Source as (one) answer

The answer for much of these basic security questions meant that more and more vendors are adopting – or seriously considering – the use of open source software. Though not everyone was aligned with the true value of open source, some even felt opportunistic, it was encouraging that the message of using open source, with all the extra eyes on it, is getting through.

Having said that, and knowing that open source software is notoriously more resilient than proprietary, closed source software – it does have its issues that vendors and manufacturers need to be aware of. Namely, though it is open and freely available, open source is not free. Yes, there is no licensing fee, but that is not to say it doesn’t come with the expenses of developing expertise, ensuring the organisation using it has the right liability cover, maintenance and working with open source communities to get the best out of it. As with anything in life, using open source requires upkeep to get the most from it.

In silicon we trust

Using open source protocols to get the basics right in IoT means that embedded devices can truly be interoperable with each other. What stops this from being a security risk is trust. The other element I discussed and which received over an hour of questions from the audience was the prplPUF™ API, the Physical Unclonable Funtions implementation of the prplSecurity™framework. I think everyone can agree that we’ve established that embedding secrets in a device is just not a good idea – and if you need proof, look no further than the Vault 7 revelations; not even the CIA can hide such secrets. Instead, what if you could extract a unique identifier from the silicon itself, something that is exclusive and repeatable and unable to be cloned?

This could have all sorts of applications for improving and strengthening security in embedded devices and the real genius of it is that it’s something that already exists with in the hardware itself – much like a digital fingerprint.

By using the prpl platform which combines open source with the use of a light-weight hypervisor for security by separation and PUF to establish trust in embedded systems, we’re looking at a much safer future for IoT.

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For more information or to get involved in the groundbreaking work prpl is doing with improving embedded computing security, visit us at http://prpl.works or contact me directly at @CesareGarlati

prpl @ Microchip MASTERs 2016

U.S. MASTERs 2016prpl Foundation, along with our members Imagination Technologies and Seltech, were excited to participate in Microchip MASTERs conference in Phoenix last week.

MASTERs is known as the “premier technical training conference for embedded control engineers”. We were thrilled to showcase our latest developments for this group: the porting of the prplSecurity™ framework to Microchip’s PIC32MZ controllers sporting the MIPS M5150 core.

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Open, Hardware-Based IoT Security Can Be a Win/Win for Innovation & Regulation

Art Swift, President, prpl Foundation

In the last blog post, I discussed how regulators are increasingly setting themselves on a collision course with consumers keen to customize and improve the functionality of their products. The key here is the Internet of Things, which is rapidly turning a new generation of products “smart” by adding computing power, network connectivity, and sophisticated software. From cars to routers and drug infusion pumps to drones, they now offer a wealth of possibilities for tech savvy owners keen to push their device capabilities to the limits. At the same time there are logical reasons why lawmakers and regulators need to lock down certain functionality – for the safety and well-being of their citizens. It’s a delicate balance.

The problem is that current IoT systems simply aren’t architected in a way which will allow for this kind of granularity. The answer is a new approach outlined in the prpl Foundation’s new document: Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Embedded Computing. It describes how open source development; secure boot based on a root of trust anchored in the silicon; and hardware virtualization can keep both regulators and consumers happy. Continue reading

Open source software under attack – is the worst still to come?

What we can learn from the recent cyber attacks to the popular website GitHub and why we should worry about what is likely to come next.

github-attackOver the last few days the popular website GitHub has been the target of a massive Distributed Denial Of Service attack – DDoS, apparently originated from China. As I write this note, the GitHub status webpage now indicates “Everything operating normally” and “All systems reporting at 100%”. However, I am afraid the story is far from over and the worst may still be to come.

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