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Security

The Benefits and Challenges of a Connected World

Michael Glenn
VP of Cybersecurity

Apr 18, 2017

On April 12, CableLabs hosted an Inform[ED] conference in NYC focused on the emerging IoT security landscape. This open event brought together business leaders, key technologists, and security experts from multiple industry sectors, academia, and government. They shared in-depth views of IoT's evolution and the increasing security, privacy and policy challenges arising from the ongoing and rapidly accelerating deployment of connected devices.

Billions of new devices lead to an increased threatspace

Shawn Henry of Crowdstrike, a retired executive assistant director of the FBI, set the stage for our experts for the rest of the day. His focus and ideas were repeated and supported throughout the event by speakers and panelists. Security threats pose significant challenges to IoT, with real risk to individuals, businesses, and national security. The threats come from terrorist and organized crime groups along with other nation states. New extremist groups such as the Cyber Califate extend activities of terrorists into a cyber Jihad. Organized crime groups focus on theft of personal identifying information they can monetize, targeting capabilities critical to businesses as they evolve extortion.

Criminals target IoT, losing essential data or the ability to use critical devices unless asset owners pay financial compensation to retrieve. A major example is the rash of ransomware targeting hospitals. And, of course, there have been attacks by nation states, notably attributed to North Korea and Iran. All three types of adversaries steal data, change data, and destroy data to achieve their own ends. However, the IoT benefits are worth investment in effort and resources to protect, and IoT security needs to assess the risks posted by bad actors, mitigating vulnerabilities appropriately.

Collaborating on standards and public policy

IoT risk management is also a concern among policymakers, who take notice when insecure devices impact networks and services. Matt Tooley of NCTA discussed with Allan Friedman of the NTIA the agencies' efforts to galvanize all relevant parties toward solutions through a multi-stakeholder process. Gerald Faulhaber of the Wharton School, Chaz Lever of Georgia Tech, and Jason Livingood of Comcast agreed on the need for broadly shared responsibility for IoT security, and Professor Faulhaber noted some form of government oversight may be forthcoming, though the model is unclear. While certification of devices may provide some key elements we need, it's important we understand policy will likely be slow to evolve. This means businesses, including service providers, device manufacturers and others must evolve their security strategies as adversaries evolve their methods of attacking IoT. Industry-driven solutions will continue to provide the most agile responses to new threats.

Threat mitigation

The team of security experts that came together at CableLabs’ Inform[ed] event are working hard to manage risks and mitigate threats. We heard great insights from Dylan Davis of RiskSense, Terry Dunlap of Tactical Network Solutions, James Plouffe of MobileIron and technical consultant to the popular Mr. Robot series, Dan Massey of the DHS Security & Technology directorate, Tobin Richardson from the Zigbee Alliance, and Matt Perry from Microsoft also the OCF Board of Directors President. Service provider experts includes Brian Rexroad of AT&T, Clarke Stevens of Shaw Communications, and Rich Compton of Charter Communications. This fantastic body of experts provided substantive insight into the IoT security challenge and what needs to be done to protect our infrastructure, data, and user experiences. One of the common themes of the conference — how to secure IoT devices and the infrastructures that connect them – kept resonating throughout the day. We just need to do it. There aren’t that many surprises here — as Brian Scriber of CableLabs provocatively summed up in the final key.

  • Encouraging manufacturers to implement well designed and securable code, and enabling the security capabilities and features we know to use in other technology areas.
  • It is critical to protect people and devices during onboarding, the process of joining networks and configuring devices and services properly as they are first installed. We need strong device and personal identity methods, enabled through public key infrastructure solutions.
  • Our communications and device operations need to ensure confidentiality and integrity while also ensuring appropriate levels of availability.
  • Finally, devices must be fully supported throughout their life cycle, and this must include upgradable security and dynamic patching of vulnerabilities.

Our industry knows how to do these things — we've got over 30 years of experience securing our networks and IT systems. The lessons learned are still relevant and should be applied to the broader IoT ecosystem. But, we still see common errors like use of known insecure protocols and use of devices that don't require strong authentication, or even include default credentials so anybody knowledgeable of the device can log on. And people can find those devices through services such as Shodan — a very common theme through the day. There are opportunities for improvement such as better measurement and monitoring capabilities. Applying the benefits of data science and big data practices will help detect vulnerabilities and anomalies faster.    Further, highly automated strategies to patch and reconfigure devices and networks will enable us to address threats quickly. Security's goal is to make attacking IoT sufficiently expensive so adversaries lose interest. Make it too hard or too expensive for bad actors to exploit IoT for nefarious gains.

These business, technology and policy experts provided actionable guidance, making this a unique event – and the audience and panelists left positive and confident that IoT security can be meaningfully improved if all parties share responsibility. Working collaboratively, we can ensure our customers have great experiences that enrich their lives. And we know what needs to be done. We just need to get working together to make it happen.

 

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Comments
Security

  Device Security in the Internet of Things

Brian Scriber
Vice President, Security Technologies

Oct 27, 2016

As of the writing, some of the largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks ever are actively disrupting major service and content providers. Many of the attacks are being reported as leveraging Internet of Things devices such as IP cameras. It’s interesting that these dramatic attacks are happening during Cybersecurity Awareness month.

How to Affect Change In Security

For many, IoT literally opens doors; for those of us in need of electronic assistance for key tasks, this is critical for daily living; with an estimated 20 billion devices online four years from now, it is a critical security requirement.  CableLabs is focused on specific goals in securing Internet of Things (IoT) devices for three specific reasons: 1) our desire to protect the privacy and security of our subscribers; 2) enabling trust in the technology automating the environment we live in; and 3) the need to protect the network infrastructure supporting subscriber services. Our technical teams are actively working toward solutions for handling both the heterogeneous security models of existing devices through advanced networking techniques and in future devices through guiding standards bodies and industry coalitions in security considerations.

Who is Looking out for Your Privacy?

Subscriber privacy goes beyond personal anonymity; it includes protecting information that can be used to identify people, or their devices.  Consider a mobile device, such as a Bluetooth fitness band, that broadcasts its unique identifier whenever requested (such as during any handshake to authenticate the device on various networks). That broadcast identifier could be used without the device owner’s knowledge to identify and track shoppers in a mall, protesters, or visitors at medical clinics among other concerns. Interestingly, network protection starts with device identity, and while many put this in opposition to the subscriber privacy, it does not need to be. Prior to onboarding devices into the network, which involves authentication and authorization as well as exchanging credentials and network configuration details, devices can provide temporary random identifier for new onboarding requests. After onboarding into a network, devices need an immutable, attestable, and unique identifier so that network operators can trace malicious behavior. Insecure devices that can evade identification, spoof their network address or misrepresent themselves, all while participating in botnets are a threat to everyone.  Being able to rapidly trace attacks back to offending devices allows operators to more effectively coordinate with device owners in surgically tracking down and quarantining these threats.

Security – Where, When and How

Subscriber security is different from privacy and looks to ensure availability, confidentiality, and integrity.  Availability is the key reason for the need for immutable identifiers within networks. When networked devices are subverted to participate in DDoS attacks, the ability to trace traffic to the corrupted devices is key. Encryption of data (in use, at rest, and in transit) is the primary means of assuring confidentiality. Since many IoT devices are constrained in processing power, it has become easy for manufacturers to overlook the need for confidentiality (data protection), arguing that the processing, storage and power costs for traditional PKI exceed device capabilities. Today, even disposable IoT devices are capable of using PKI thanks to Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC). ECC requires smaller keys and enables faster encryption than traditional methods have allowed – all while maintaining the same level of security assurances as traditional (RSA) cryptography. This allows not only for confidentiality, but can also be used to deliver integrity through non-repudiation (a device cannot deny it received a command/message) and message origin assurance (through signing or credential exchange).  However, good ECC curve selection is very important. A final element of security is the ability for these devices to securely update their operating system, firmware, drivers, and protocol stacks. No system is perfect, and when a potential vulnerability is discovered, updating those devices already deployed will be a key part of the success of the IoT and how we interact with these tools.

Forming Trust

These elements described above, availability, privacy, confidentiality, and integrity, all work together to develop trust. This trust comes from personal and shared experiences. The more positive security experiences consumers have with devices, the more trust is earned. Negative experiences deteriorate this trust, and this can happen disproportionally to events which built trust, and it often happens vicariously as opposed to personal experience.  For example, a subscriber who reads about a personal security camera that has been visible to others on the internet,  may forego the purchase of that, or similar, devices. The overall goal is to improve experiences for consumers both in future devices and to limit not only how many devices are compromised, but also limit the scope and impact of any individual vulnerability through leveraging multiple layers of defense.

Working Together Toward Network Protection

When IoT devices can be used en masse to leverage attacks targeting DNS servers, and when consumer market incentives don’t enforce security as a primary concern, industry standards bodies and consortia are typically called on to develop solutions . The Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) is the leading IoT influence group, with over 200 leading global manufacturers and software developers (Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, Electrolux, Microsoft and others) joining forces to ensure secure and interoperable IoT solutions. Other ecosystems are converging on OCF as well, and groups like UPnP, the AllSeen Alliance, and OneM2M have merged into the OCF organization. CableLabs and network operators including Comcast and Shaw are part of this movement, contributing code, technical security expertise, leadership, specifications, and time to make the Internet of Things safer for everyone. The Linux Foundation project, IoTivity, is being built as a platform to enable device manufacturers to more economically include security and interoperability in their products. OCF is driving toward support within IoT devices for subscriber privacy, security, and trust.

Standards organizations tend to focus on future devices, but helping manage existing devices is another area of research and exploration. The IoT security community is actively engaged not only on the future, but on the present, and how to improve consumer, manufacturer and operator experiences. A key tool to support existing IoT systems will be intermediating device/internet connections and providing bridges between ecosystems for interoperability to the ideas around using advanced networking techniques to help manage devices.

Convergence

These different needs, privacy, security, trust and network protection, all combine to create a positive perspective on the IoT environment.  Imagine devices which are highly available, trusted to do what they need to do, when they need to, for only whom they are intended to, and that communicate across networks securely, all while maintaining privacy. This is the focus of component and device manufacturers, network operators, integrators, academics, and practitioners alike.  The convergence we are seeing around standards and open source projects is great news for all of us.

Interested in learning more?  Join Brian and several others at the Inform[ED]™ Conference in New York, April 12, 2017.

Brian A. Scriber (@brianscriber), Principal Architect, Security, CableLabs is the Security Working Group Chair, Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) (@OpenConnOrg).

 

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