Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Gartner Security Summit - IoT Review

This week saw the Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit being held in London.  A well attended and respected summit, it brought together the great and good of the infosec world, providing attendees, with a vendor and analyst view of governance, malware, identity and firewall related security topics.

The area that caught my attention though, were the sessions on internet of things related security.

The IoT world is fast becoming the catch all bucket, for any small device that connects to the internet, but isn't a smartphone.  There are some incredibly smart innovations taking place in this space, from consumer and health monitoring, through to operational technology and smart grid and utility monitoring solutions. Tiny fit-for-purpose devices, that perform a small, repeatable task, such as gathering data and sending to a central hub or broker service.  They often have very limited hardware capacity, tiny if-at-all operating systems and very rarely contain out of the box security.

The main focus today, is generally for IoT vendors to promote interoperability - great demo's and show cases, focusing on integration or data transfer under low power or capacity constraints.

Topics such as device registration, claiming and association, data encryption or data sharing, rarely get mentioned or focused upon.

Gartner's Earl Perkins, introduced an intriguingly titled session called "Herding Cats and Securing the Internet of Things".  Earl touched up the need to have a tiered approach to IoT security, covering infrastructure, identity and data.  Whilst the devices themselves are often associated with data capture and replay, it's often the data owners - real people - who could be exposed in a data breach disaster.

Following Earl, was Trent Henry discussing how Public Key Infrastructure, the once expensive and seemingly legacy encryption approach, was having a new lease of life in the machine to machine (M2M) landscape, where username and password authentication is of limited use.  It seems logical, that the use of things like asymmetric keys (perhaps minted at manufacture time) and certificate distribution can become the defacto standard in the M2M game.

The increased popularity of things like NFC (near field communications) has opened the scope for smartphone payment technology, through the implementation of secure elements, within the phone's hardware.  Such secure elements are likely to be seen within other non-phone devices that have a requirement for the storage of credential or certificates and keys.

One of the major issues with the IoT landscape, is often associated with basic identity management, such as how devices register to a service or authoritative source and how the corresponding data owners are able to authorize and share data to trusted third parties.  Whilst the devices themselves could be simple, the data captured, is often of a high value and simple yet robust trust and privacy models need to be implemented.

Many of the newer authorization standards such as OAuth2, OpenID Connect and User Managed Access (UMA) may have a significant role to play here.

By Simon Moffatt