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Can EDA secure the Internet of Things?

Posted: 23 Oct 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IoT  cybersecurity  embedded  EDA 

Mentor Graphics CEO Wally Rhines spoke about his view on the Internet of Things (IoT) cybersecurity and the possible role of EDA at the root of every design.

"There is so much buzz around Cloud computing, IoT and Cybersecurity nowadays that just by attending all the conferences and talks on these three topics, you could never have to go back to your office," jokingly said Rhines.

"In fact, all three topics share a common concern: security," he noted. "And while the cloud is exposing us more, IoT magnifies both the amount of data and the number of data collection sites," he added, inferring that each new node potentially offers a new entry point to hackers.

It is true that security breaches regularly make the news, from credit card databases to Facebook or iCloud accounts to medical records. That also includes virus exploits compromising industrial or military assets, the Stuxnet being the most famous one.

The latter may have been delivered using the so-called "candy drop" tactic, when infected USB drives are scattered in public places (parking lots, smoking areas nearby the targeted sites) and picked up randomly by unsuspecting passers-by.

In fact, nowadays most security breaches are software-based, when an application can be compromised and data collected, either through social engineering, malware and viruses or Trojans.

Counter-measures for such attacks range from basic antivirus scanning software, to embedded hypervisors to hardware-bound secure applications tying their execution to uniquely identifiable hardware (for example an embedded secure element or even better, a Physically Unclonable Function derived from intrinsic hardware properties).

According to Atrenta CTO Bernard Murphy, security techniques in the Internet have largely drawn inspiration from physical security—keys, firewalls, trusted zones and more. However, there are other possible sources of inspiration, biology being an obvious example.

"But the threats extend way beyond software and some hackers will put a lot of effort into compromising a system's security at silicon-level," said Rhines.

IoT security

Well-documented examples include side-channel attacks for which counter measures include hardened IP to resist attacks and make key extraction more difficult. At board-level, counterfeit chips have also been widely reported; some are pure fake or cloned or even recycled parts de-soldered from eWaste, but you could also find additional chips spying on the board's transactions.

What about malicious logic inside a chip or rogue hardware?

When using third party IP blocks bearing millions of transistors, who is going to reverse-engineer every single transistor to ensure that they do no more than what it says on the tin?


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