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How to Secure IoT in a 5G World: New approaches for innovation


5G promises to be a unified connectivity fabric that will connect virtually everything across our homes and businesses. This new generation of connectivity presents both opportunities and challenges for designing trusted services across diverse Internet of Things (IoT) requirements. Vincent Korstanje, the chief executive of Kigen, considers what is needed for a rich roadmap of system innovations across high reliability, device connectivity and cost. The bottom line is; security needs to be built in from the start.

Cellular IoT’s ubiquitous connectivity is a key draw for engineering innovations across fast-growing markets such as infrastructure for more intelligent transport, smart consumer services, smart city devices and connected health. The adoption of 5G is going to accelerate the deployment of these connected devices significantly. But as with most disruptive new technology waves, 5G brings its own challenges that require designers to consider how they support new radio bands while balancing not making IoT device design too complex. Increasingly, the devices in question are low power, long-lived in field, low cost, afford low levels of physical access, and are deployed across further and remote locations.

Cellular IoT has long been the choice of secure, large-scale and resilient deployments due to the robust subscriber identity module (SIM) that authenticates a device. As our devices shrink, and as remote devices must endure a wider range of environmental conditions, securing the device’s identity requires new and broader solutions. Every connected device will need to be updated at some point throughout its lifespan. One of the advantages of IoT devices is that they can receive software/firmware updates over the air (OTA). That said, the ability to only allow authorised updates is critical to ensuring the integrity of the device and code running on it.

Scale is both IoT’s most significant opportunity and hurdle. Manufacturers need to consider how they will manage and secure the device throughout an extended lifecycle – in the case of cars and even consumer devices this includes an after-sales business model to support the ability to repair, replace owners or decommission securely to be more sustainable.

Take advantage of the evolution of SIM Embedded SIM

(eSIM) technology is still a hardware-based SIM, but this elegant, robust and scalable technology is soldered permanently into the device and was designed to address some of the challenges impeding true scalability in cellular IoT. eSIM allows devices to be deployed anywhere with existing cellular coverage; operator profiles or network providers can be updated over the air, based on standards that offer a frictionless experience for device manufacturers and service operators.

But there is more: an integrated SIM (iSIM) takes all the benefits of standards-compliant eSIM and embeds them into the device’s permanent hardware array by combining the SIM with the system-on-a-chip (SOC) architecture and cellular modem. Fusing the secure locations into the chipset itself offers a low-footprint and introduces extra layers of security through a hardware-based secure enclave – a dedicated processor for security operationsthat maintains the integrity of all cryptographic and key managed operations.

Security and scale go hand in hand

As the number of devices ramps up, the IoT attack vector will grow exponentially, and security cannot be an afterthought. IoT continues to move closer to core processes, and businesses should ensure that both devices – the endpoint itself – and data exchange, in technical terms, the chip-tocloud security, have strong identity and trust foundations.

To achieve scale, businesses need simpler ways of manufacturing whilst being able to keep the robust security benefits derived from SIM capabilities. The fastest growth of eSIM and iSIM deployments is coming from markets that have not traditionally operated at the same cost points as cellular or smartphone industry. Markets such as fleet management of e-bikes or e-scooters or connected health wearables did not exist in their current capabilities a few years ago.

Evolution of the SIM

Within these, businesses need simplification of both the bill of materials and that of the supply chain. iSIM fundamentally changes the way device makers can access cellular capabilities for devices that could not be served before. iSIM offers the highest protection for subscription credentials and isolates processing in a secure enclave. An additional authentication layer serves as a root of trust for secure communications while reducing the bill of materials.

One of the often-overlooked elements of security design is how trust is granted to a device and managed throughout its lifecycle. While trust is relatively easy to manage within a trust manufacturing environment, it is much more difficult once that device leaves the factory floor.

The GSMA standard IoT SIM Applet For Secure End-2-End Communication (IoT-SAFE) iSIM supports the entire secure chip-to-cloud IoT infrastructure. A collaborative next step to this standard is the Open IoT SAFE principles, that allow a re-think of interoperability in order to deliver the promise of zero-touch provisioning. Using the most trusted internet protocols and iSIMs to authenticate both connectivity and application credentials for any data being exchanged with any cloud represents an opportunity for telecoms operators to win customer trust across any connection.

New opportunities

eSIM and iSIM are solutions to existing problems, but they also open up new opportunities for the broader innovations. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have an increasingly important role to play in the IoT. The Economist Intelligence Unit reported in 2020 that 90% of companies with extensive IoT deployments link their real-time data gathering with their AI planning. Companies with mature deployments can justify the traditionally high cost of incorporating AI and ML, as they had a demonstrable return on investment (ROI) from an existing deployment.

Luckily, that barrier to entry is being lowered today and we’re seeing the cost of utilising these tools falling, broadening the types of diversity of devices that can be intelligent nodes across low-power wide area networks working together with mainstream 5G networks. Massive IoT will support the mainstay applications that we have come to envision 5G with such as cellular-to-vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X).

The opportunities presented by cellular IoT, underpinned by 5G are abundant. Herein is represented an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration across manufacturing, engineering, commerce and technology providers to ensure the 5G digital economy has security as it is cornerstone. 

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This UrIoTNews article is syndicated fromIoT-Now

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