Wednesday, 26 August 2015 01:02

Symantec plans IoT security platform

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Symantec has announced its plans to make it easier for Internet of Things vendors to keep their products secure.

Symantec's security products and services already help secure around one billion devices including medical systems, set top boxes and ATMs, Symantec security expert Nick Savvides told iTWire.

While these capabilities have not been offered in a form that is easily consumable by the growing Internet of Things (IoT) industry, that's about to change as Symantec is preparing to announce a platform that can provide end-to-end protection and provide the company with telemetry about any attacks.

Symantec will also offer advice to vendors about best security practices. Startups don't always give enough attention to security and their developers don't always understand the nature of modern attacks, so the current situation is "problematic," Savvides said.

And while some development platforms are more secure than others, developers often use libraries that may present certain security risks.

So Symantec is working with organisations at multiple levels of the industry, from chip providers such as Texas Instruments (if root keys are embedded in the hardware, they can't be changed by possibly malicious software), through to the developers of the software that powers IoT devices.

The benefits of this approach include the ability to ensure that only trusted updates are installed on the devices, that data flowing to and from the device has not been tampered with in transit, and that communication is occurring with the intended party.

"Security will be the new battleground for these devices," Savvides said. For example, vendors may try to distinguish themselves from the competition by delivering updates quickly and easily, but for that to be successful customers will "need to trust the automation."

Symantec's Embedded Critical Systems Protection provides developers with a way of hardening the base operating system and the applications running on the device through mechanisms including memory protection and application whitelisting. If memory corruption or other anomalous behaviour is detected it gets shut down, and attempts to introduce unauthorised software will fail. There are also mechanisms to check the the identity of data sources such as sensors, and that the data they provide has not been altered, whether communication is across the internet or between a vehicle's onboard components.

The company plans to extend this function with telemetry and analytics to provide warnings when something out of the ordinary occurs.

While many of these functions are already available, Savvides said Symantec's plan to make them all available via a single cloud platform will make it easier and cheaper for vendors to take advantage of them.

Depending on the type of device and the functionality required, the cost could be as little as cents rather than dollars per device, he said. "It would be a very small incremental cost."

Symantec Embedded Security for Critical System Protection, IoT Device Certificates for Authentication, and IoT Code Protection are all available. The IoT Platform and IoT Security Analytics are expected sometime before the end of March 2016.

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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