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Open Source Embedded Software Development and Security Blog

Laying down the law on IoT security

IoT device security vaulted into the public consciousness in recent years. Media coverage of successful attacks against IoT devices and supporting systems, botnets powered by compromised devices, and a range of other security issues have raised public concern.

But now California is on the verge of enacting the first actual law in the US to mandate IoT device security.

Unfortunately, according to some in the industry, the bill now awaiting the governor’s signature will do little in its present form to improve the security of IoT, or the companies deploying it, or the people using it.

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Security at IoT scale

It often helps to look at cybersecurity from the attacker’s point of view.

This approach, in fact, is the foundation of common techniques for penetration testing. That’s when “white hat” hackers will put a company’s IT systems through a range of attacks, looking for security vulnerability issues and defense gaps.

So when we consider Internet of Things device security and the defenses that protect an enterprise’s IoT deployments, it’s important to adopt the mindset of an attacker.

What’s an attacker looking for when they are prepping IoT attacks?

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‘Complexity is the enemy of security’ … especially in IoT

There is an old saying in the IT security space, one that applies really across any type of security: Complexity is the enemy of security.

It’s hard to pin down exactly who coined this phrase. Among the earliest references to it are from IT security guru Bruce Schneier. And Schneier’s discussion of this principle is probably among the clearest: systems get harder to secure as they get more complex. And since our systems are getting more complex all the time, security is becoming more challenging.

Today’s poster child for the Complexity-Security inverse correlation is Internet of Things device security.

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Secure boot on Snapdragon 410

Qualcomm Snapdragon processors support secure boot which ensures only authenticated software runs on the device. By configuring the processor for secure boot, unauthorized or modified code is prevented from being run. The authenticity of the image is verified by use digital signatures and certificate chain.

Secure boot process overview

On Qualcomm processors the first piece of software that runs is called Primary BootLoader (PBL) and it resides in immutable read-only-memory (ROM) of the processor. By configuring the processor for secure boot, PBL can verify the authenticity of the Secondary BootLoader (SBL) before executing it.

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IoT Security: Don’t Ship Product Without It

Devices connected via IoT technology are spreading across multiple industries at unprecedented rates. But the benefits of enhanced connectivity are accompanied by increased security risks.

IoT technology is used in everything from healthcare devices, to transportation infrastructure, to industrial control systems supporting operationally critical processes.

According to Forbes, some 80 billion devices will be connected to the internet by the year 2025. In terms of customer convenience and effective performance, this trend could be game-changing for people who rely on technology to explore, work, and live.

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The FBI Warns of IoT Security Issues Once Again

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a warning about Internet of Things device security issues, the latest in a continuing string of IoT attack and security vulnerability warnings from the US’s top law enforcement agency.

Attackers are using compromised IoT devices as proxies to mask various illicit activities, the FBI said, citing spamming, click-fraud, illegal trade, botnets for hire, and other crimes being committed using IoT devices.

The Bureau said IoT device vulnerabilities are being exploited by these attackers, naming routers, media streaming devices, Raspberry Pis, IP cameras, …

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Why is traditional IT security failing to protect the IoT?

The traditional IT security architecture has been through a mammoth, global stress test in recent years thanks to the environment of escalating attacks and huge data breaches.

But perhaps the biggest challenge of all to the traditional IT security architecture has been in the IT evolution driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, Edge Computing and related innovations.

Data breaches in recent years have already been reaching epidemic proportions with millions of records compromised in typical breaches. Researchers report that the number of data breaches in 2017 were an order of magnitude larger than in 2005.

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Make your device’s security posture stronger

If you make devices that support enterprise operational tasks, sensor data gathering, or a range of other enterprise processes, then your device’s security posture is a major concern for your customers.

But if you are not in the IT security industry, the security posture for your device may not even be something that is clearly defined in product requirements. Besides the obvious security-oriented features, such as encryption and authentication and compliance-mandated features, security requirements are often embedded in a host of other functions and processes that may be covered by your device requirements.

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Maintaining strong security for your IoT device BSP

IT security has never been more of a hot button topic than it is today. Increasingly, the focus is on the security of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the embedded systems that support these devices.

And so far, the traditional enterprise security architectures and procedures are failing to protect these systems from being compromised. The evidence is trumpeted in the headlines documenting successful compromises, emerging breach patterns, and the exploding volume of vulnerability advisories.

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Discovering and Fixing Vulnerabilities Quickly: Securing Embedded Open Source IoT Devices in the Wild

The web of Internet of Things (IoT) devices continues to grow each day. In fact, by the year 2020, Gartner predicts that 95% of new electronic product designs will contain IoT technology; Forbes expects at least 80 billion IoT devices to be available by 2025. But with such a vast number of devices in use across the world, how can you hope to find flaws and address vulnerability concerns in a timely manner within your own IoT products?

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Introducing TRST Product Protection Solutions for Devices Based on Embedded Open Source Software

Traditional IT security isn’t protecting embedded open source systems in IoT and IIoT deployments

Here at Timesys, we’ve been noticing some concerning trends when it comes to open source embedded software security and the rise of Internet of Things (ioT) and other intelligent devices. We’ve been hard at work developing a solution that can help ease your burden of carefully developing, monitoring, and maintaining security measures on your devices.

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Managing vulnerabilities: Understanding patch notifications and fixing CVEs

After Notification: The Next Steps

In a previous blog, we covered how Timesys handles security monitoring and notification of open source software vulnerabilities, how to generate reports on demand for the current state of a Yocto or Factory build on the desktop, and how to view, generate, and subscribe for reports on the web. If you missed it, now would be a good time to catch up before reading this post, because the next steps cover what to do …

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Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities

Google Project Zero team discovered a method to read privileged memory from user space by utilizing CPU data cache timing to leak information out of mis-speculated execution. Variants of this issue are known to affect many modern processors, including certain processors by Intel, AMD and ARM. For more details refer to this blogpost.

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Trusted Software Development Using OP-TEE

This blog aims to introduce the concept of Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) and how end users can leverage open source software to safely deploy applications that require handling confidential information.

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Secure Boot and Encrypted Data Storage

Secure boot ensures only authenticated software runs on the device and is achieved by verifying digital signatures of the software prior to executing that code. To achieve secure boot, processor/SoC support is required. In our experience, some of the more secure boot friendly processors with readily available documentation are NXP i.MX, Xilinx Zynq, and Atmel SAMA5 series. Some TI Sitara processors support secure boot, but might involve TI factory programming of signing keys and custom part numbers.

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Webinar: Building Embedded Software Efficiently with an IDE

Discover IDE-assisted software development best practices that can help you minimize the number of challenges you encounter and reduce development delays when building your value-add embedded application.

This four-session webinar series will utilize open source Linux and Timesys’ TimeStorm IDE for embedded application- and system-level development. You’ll see how TimeStorm provides a consistent development experience while providing application developers with the flexibility they need to be more efficient and productive.

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Securing Embedded Linux Devices

Embedded devices have unique security needs ranging from IP protection, anti-cloning / anti-counterfeit capability, device software integrity, user data protection, securing network communication, device authentication and ability to run only trusted applications. A wide range of open source technologies are available that can help implement the aforementioned security requirements. However, it is not always apparent which mechanisms are best suited for a given use case, resulting in a steep learning curve. This blog series aims at giving a high-level overview of the different methods to secure your product and help accelerate your trusted software deployment.

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Software / Firmware Update Design Considerations

The Internet of Things (IoT) has quickly led to the deployment of ubiquitous, unattended devices throughout our homes, offices, factories and public spaces. In this continuously expanding connected world of devices and IoT, the need to update/upgrade your product’s software/firmware is a certainty. There is no single software update approach that fits all, but there are key questions you should consider when designing your approach. They are: Why, When, What and How.

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