One-size-fits-all approach will not be enough to secure the IoT, says TCG

26 June 2019

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Securing the Internet of Things (IoT) is something which can't be done with a one-size-fits-all approach – every kind of connected object must be assessed individually, the Co-chair of Trusted Computing Group’s (TCG) Embedded Systems Work Group said today.

Speaking on the second day of Embedded Technologies Expo & Conference 2019, Co-chair of Trusted Computing Group’s (TCG) Embedded Systems Work Group, Steve Hanna highlighted how the growing trend for greater connectivity puts everyday 'smart' objects at risk of exploitation, as well as making mission critical systems in businesses and Governments more vulnerable to attack.

And while securing the IoT is often referred to as a singular movement, Hanna emphasised that every device had to be handled according to its individual needs – warning that there would be no single method that could be universally applied to safeguard devices.

“When you consider other security systems, for example a lock, what you would use for a front door is very different to what would be used for a bank or a Government building – because the scale of an attack would be much greater and more complex in the case of the latter,” he said. “The same is true for computers and embedded systems. When we think about security, we have to think about different levels that correspond to the level of risk.”

Hanna illustrated his point by comparing a baby monitor with a chemical plant – both of which are likely to become connected as standard in the near-future. For the latter, he said, the impact of an attack could be as serious as an explosion which would ultimately endanger human life.

“While it is important to secure things like baby monitors, for example, to avoid the devices being used to eavesdrop on conversations, there is a price point that needs to be met as well – no one is going to spend thousands of dollars on a baby monitor, and for the manufacturers, that means the security solution needs to be less expensive,” continued Hanna.

“In the case of a chemical plant, the risk is much greater, the level of attack is likely to be more sophisticated – and a serious amount of money could have been invested in carrying it out. As a result, the security measures need to be much more stringent.”

Hanna went on to explain that the customised security approach required by the Internet of Things can be easily achieved using technologies that are available today. TCG’s security standards are all based on the concept of Trusted Computing, where a Root of Trust forms the foundation of the device and meets the specific requirements of the device or deployment.

“TCG’s wide variety of security options provide the building blocks to create secure systems,” said Hanna. “In the case of a chemical plant, industrial-grade discrete TPM hardware can be built in not just into the plant’s firewall but also into the control system. This will enable these systems to be monitored in real-time – and for even sophisticated attacks to be identified and prevented. For devices which are less high-risk, TPM firmware can be created which has the same set of commands, but is less rigorously secured, and therefore more cost-effective. Finally, for very tiny devices that can’t afford TPM firmware, DICE offers a good alternative.”

Embedded Technologies Expo & Conference 2019 is taking place in San Jose, California, from June 25-27, 2019. As part of the event, TCG will host a workshop on IoT, Embedded & Security in room 231B from 10am to 5pm Wednesday 26th June. Event attendees are welcome to drop into the workshop, or visit TCG at booth #1832, where a number of demonstrations will also take place.


About TCG
TCG is a not-for-profit organisation formed to develop, define and promote open, vendor-neutral, global industry specifications and standards, supportive of a hardware-based root of trust, for interoperable trusted computing platforms. More information is available at the TCG website, www.trustedcomputinggroup.org and the organisation offers a number of resources for developers and designers at develop.trustedcomputinggroup.org


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