Maintaining Security in a Heterogeneous and Changing World

Credits: Embedded World Conference 2019 Proceedings,

Abstract — Safety and security concerns are holding back the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Much of this comes down to two very different inconvenient truths: first, that Smart Cities and Connected Infrastructure are by nature composed of highly diverse sets of devices, yet device security standards are highly variable; and second, that those devices are operating in a permanently degraded state.
Firmware and device data need ongoing maintenance to overcome vulnerabilities and defend against newly-discovered threats, and yet this lack of interoperability makes such patching very difficult to realize. This paper argues for standards and interoperability at a critical layer of the stack – secure boot, firmware, trusted execution environment and identity protection – in order to enable proper security management of the IIoT ecosystem.

The Internet of Things, the technology that promised us utopian smart cities and connected lives, is failing to deliver. Instead of a coherent Internet of Things we have in its place an Internet of Silos, where narrow use cases may work very well, but devices, systems, and economies cannot interoperate. Differences in device standards, a lack of consistency in device security, and a ‘land-grab’, ‘winner-takes-all’ mentality on cloud management services means that while vertical walled-garden digital consumer services are making strides into the connected future, the physical world is left frustratingly behind.

Read more of this post

Physically Unclonable Functions – A new way to establish trust in silicon

Credits: Embedded World Conference 2018, ISBN 978-3-645-50173-6,

Download full paper

Abstract — As billions of devices connect to the Internet, security and trust become crucial. This paper proposes a new approach to provisioning a root of trust for every device, based on Physical Unclonable Functions (PUFs). PUFs rely on the unique differences of each silicon component introduced by minute and uncontrollable variations in the manufacturing process. These variations are virtually impossible to replicate. As such they provide an effective way to uniquely identify each device and to extract cryptographic keys used for strong device authentication. This paper describes cutting-edge real-world applications of SRAM PUF technology applied to a hardware security subsystem, as a mechanism to secure software on a microcontroller and as a basis for authenticating IoT devices to the cloud.


The Internet of Things already connects billions of devices and this number is expected to grow into the tens of millions in the coming years [5]. To build a trustworthy Internet of Things, it is essential for these devices to have a secure and reliable method to connect to services in the cloud and to each other. A trustworthy authentication mechanism based on device-unique secret keys is needed such that devices can be uniquely identified and such that the source and authenticity of exchanged data can be verified.

In a world of billions of interconnected devices, trust implies more than sound cryptography and resilient transmission protocols: it extends to the device itself, including its hardware and software. The main electronic components within a device must have a well-protected security boundary where cryptographic algorithms can be executed in a secure manner, protected from physical tampering, network attacks or malicious application code [18]. In addition, the cryptographic keys at the basis of the security subsystem must be securely stored and accessible only by the security subsystem itself. The actual hardware and software of the security subsystem must be trusted and free of known vulnerabilities. This can be achieved by reducing the size of the code to minimize the statistical probability of errors, by properly testing and verifying its functionality, by making it unmodifiable for regular users and applications (e.g. part of secure boot or in ROM) but updateable upon proper authentication (to mitigate eventual vulnerabilities before they are exploited on a large scale). Ideally, an attestation mechanism is integrated with the authentication mechanism to assure code integrity at the moment of connecting to a cloud service [3].

Read more of this post

The GitHub attack – is the worst still to come?

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


TTL analysis performed by Netresec in SwedenOver 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.

GitHub is the largest and most popular repository of open source projects and a key infrastructure website for the Internet. Among other, GitHub hosts the Linux project – arguably the world’s most widespread open source software. Various flavors of Linux power most of the Internet servers and an ever-increasing number of consumer devices across the globe.

Read more of this post