By Sam Lucero, Sr. Principal Analyst, M2M & IoT at IHS Technology

IIoT & Cybersecurity

As IIoT systems create ever more critical dependencies in plant, energy infrastructure, and transportation environments, developers and deploying organizations will turn to hardware-enabled cybersecurity to stave off proliferating cyberattacks.

Although the use of secure processors in smartcard applications, such as bank cards, mobile phone SIM cards, and digital ID documents is common, IIoT developers have barely begun to adopt a hardware-enabled approach. Instead, “root of trust” technologies, such as secure key storage, cryptography, and secure boot, are handled in software on the main application processor of the device. IHS estimates that in 2015 only 9.8% of all secure processors shipped were intended for IoT applications (that is, all of IoT, not just IIoT).

The challenge with this software-based approach is that security functions on the application processor share common memory resources with other functions and are therefore exposed and vulnerable to malicious attack. Hardware isolation reduces (but cannot completely eliminate) this exposure and therefore dramatically increases the security of the device. This increased security is fundamentally why bankcards, mobile phones, and now ePassports, have shifted to the use of hardware-based security.

Looking Ahead

A lingering question regarding the use of secure processors in IIoT applications is whether implementation will be in the form of a second coprocessor chip placed alongside the host application processor, or whether cybersecurity hardware intellectual property will be integrated directly into an application processor. (Integration of cybersecurity circuitry still achieves hardware isolation in contrast to software, although some physical security measures may become impractical.)

Chip companies such as Atmel, NXP, and Renesas Electronics have adopted this integrated approach for at least some of their respective portfolios targeting the IoT. It remains to be see whether an integrated approach will be successful. While integration helps to reduce overall device bill-of-materials, it can increase cost and complexity for cybersecurity certification, relative to a “two-chip” solution.

About Sam Lucero

Sam Lucero is a seasoned industry analyst with over 14 years of experience analyzing telecommunications and networking technology markets. He has spent the last ten years assessing the markets for machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Sam has established leading M2M market research programs and managed international teams of industry analysts. He has authored numerous reports, forecast databases, and topical articles covering various aspects of the M2M/IoT market opportunity and has been widely quoted in news and trade journals, from the New York Times and the Economist to CNET and Wireless Week. Furthermore, Sam has moderated, presented, and judged at a number of industry events, including CTIA and Connected World. In 2014 Sam was named one of six “Augural Analysts” for M2M by Connected World Magazine.

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