IoT Identity Management

Many organizations are scrambling to deal with the consequences of the IoT’s vulnerability to hacks that can give malicious actors control over connected devices. Recent DDoS attacks and connected car hijackings highlight the need for greater IoT security.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) and a rapid increase in connected devices, the lack of proper Identity Management is a major concern. It leaves devices open to identity theft, encryption and unauthorized parties taking control of smart devices like medical equipment.

Managing and securing the IoT is a critical step for organizations looking to deliver on their digital business objectives.

What is IoT Identity Management and Why is it important to Business?

Identity management ensures that the right people and devices have access to the systems and information needed to do their jobs and nothing more.

The role of identity management is expanding in the IOT. It is no longer just about identifying people and managing their access to different types of data (i.e., sensitive data, non-sensitive data, device data, etc.). In the IoT world, identity management must be able to identify devices, sensors, monitors, and manage their access to sensitive and non-sensitive data as well as protect those devices from malicious activity and compromise.

The IoT is all about increasing software control of the physical world, which entails managing billions of connections between devices and humans. The result is the emergence of a new discipline of IAM for the IoT. The IoT is entering the picture with a wide range of devices, from fitness trackers and connected homes to electronic sensors gauging water levels in reservoirs. Each device must have a digital identity. And when these device identities are connected to user identities, the true value of the IoT is able to surface. The high volumes of detailed data generated can be used to glean important insights into improved efficiencies and personalized customer experiences.

What are the Issues Facing IOT Identity Management?

One area where enterprise IoT falls short is identity management. Security concerns frequently come up as the number one barrier to greater IoT adoption.

Compromised data security always has devastating consequences, such as monetary loss, confidentiality leaks and health record tampering. In the IoT world, a breach has the potential to be life threatening. For example, a driverless car could cause a fatal accident, or home medical equipment could stop providing life-sustaining aid.

Yet many of the technologies that support the IOT ecosystem were not built with Identity Management in mind.

To truly address these challenges, it takes more than just adding security capabilities to existing employee Identity Management systems. Managing identity in the IoT is fundamentally different from workforce or customer identity management.

It demands a purpose-built solution designed with four key security capabilities at its core:

  • End-to-end encryption protects data at the network, at the device and everywhere it travels in between.
  • Extreme scale, performance and availability reliably handles the massive volumes of data the IoT generates.
  • Full-featured privacy, preference and consent management ensures users can control their IoT experiences.
  • Adaptive authentication and policy-based data access governance establishes fine-grained, contextual control.

Here are a few examples of the opportunities and threats facing IOT in various sectors:

Consumer IoT Products

Home IoT products offer many conveniences but there is massive amounts of private consumer data being transferred to and from these services that is vulnerable to attack if left unsecured. Security across an entire IoT home demands proper device authentication and data encryption to ensure that all connections are trusted and communications are protected.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

Today, IoT is revolutionizing industries from agriculture to shipping to robotics, with connected devices creating a complex web of captured data, and command and control information traveling around networks at the speed of light (also known as Industry 4.0).

For many years, the industrial sector used private networks to control crucial operations. But with the emergence of Industry 4.0, manufacturers increasingly want these systems moved online to reduce costs and increase flexibility. Installing malware on industrial robots used for automating operations is just one example of how industrial machines can be easily hacked and manipulated, putting factory floors and even people at risk.

Connected Car

As vehicles become smarter and more connected, their technology relies on digital identity to personalize and secure the customer experience. For the fleet manager, insurance provider, consumer, and anyone else using a modern connected vehicle, knowing “who” can access “what” is essential.

Digital Health

Advancements in digital health technology mean that medical professionals can partner with patients to collect data from apps, wearables, and digital health and wellness services to create one consistent, secure digital record across offices and departments and deliver a top-notch patient experience that is secure, modern, and personal. The privacy issues and knowing “who” can access “what” are both essential to get right.

The Security Gap with Current IOT Identity Management Approaches

Today’s industry-standard approach to establishing IOT security, specifically establishing trust with device identities and secure IOT firmware / software, is unacceptably vulnerable. Here’s why:

Centralization Equals Vulnerability

An IOT manufacturer’s centralized certificate authority (CA) creates certificates for signing firmware / software, provisioning human and device identities and verifying authenticity.

The CA relies on a single, super-secret private key, that when compromised, results in all trust being instantly lost for:

  • Device identities
  • Data coming from the devices
  • Any firmware / software deployed

Below we will explore the issues with securing IOT using centralized certificate authorities.

Ease of Compromise

The single, super-secret private CA concentrates extreme power in, one, or a very limited number of individuals. These keys possess so much power that they make lucrative targets for hackers and espionage agents.Internal bad actors, industrial spies or rogue admins can gain privileged access to private keys and the power to control or change virtually any aspect of an ecosystem.

Device Impersonation

Hackers fabricate fraudulent device identity certificates. Negative outcomes include fake data being fed into company backend databases, industrial sabotage and production of fake devices with seemingly genuine certificates.

Human Impersonation

Hackers fabricate fraudulent human identity certificates. Remote devices trust these fraudulently created identities through their CA anchor certificates, which enables bad actors to remotely login or control the device.Negative outcomes include spying activity, data leaking, botnets, theft of PII and more. Lives can even be endangered, when energy, transportation or healthcare networks are involved.

Undetectable Compromise

All three of the above issues are also accompanied with an extreme difficulty in detecting that the ecosystem has been compromised. Non-compliant or hacked operational states could continue to operate for years, going completely undetected.

Bricked Devices

IOT devices that can no longer communicate with their CA will cease to operate, and are therefore “bricked”, meaning the device is essentially as worthless a brick.The root cause of the CA being taken offline can be due to malicious or operation issues, but in either event, the device is prevented from being able to verify its authenticity and is no longer usable. This risk is essentially “terminal” for both the value of the device to the consumer/business and IOT services providers revenue and brand.

The Take-Away

Trustworthy Identities are foundational for a secure IOT Ecosystem. Centralized certificate authority approaches simply have too many negative security vectors that compromise the goal of achieving an irrefutable chain of custody.

The Vouch Decentralized Approach

Vouch solves the weaknesses in today’s industry-standard IOT security approaches. Our comprehensive approach delivers absolute trust through an irrefutable chain of custody. Below we detail Vouch’s key design criteria:

System Element

Vouch / Decentralized

Centralized Systems

System Architecture

Vouch / Decentralized

Centralized Systems

The architecture of the technology itself is implemented across multiple networks and organizations.

The architecture is highly centralized in a single physical location, in a master system (IDP/IAM).

System Administration & Secret / Private keys Access / Granting

Vouch / Decentralized

Centralized Systems

Granted by a flexible quorum of individuals, each secured by identities with multiple trust anchors.

Managed by a single or multiple super administrators or a vault, with passwords or hardware keys as the trust anchors.

Human Identity Security Factor

Vouch / Decentralized

Centralized Systems

Created from multiple trust anchors including a person’s biometrics, mobile device ID, and other factors such as a government ID.

A single password, potentially combined with a second factor.

Secret / Private Key Exploitation / Subversion

Vouch / Decentralized

Centralized Systems

Blockchain-based cryptography makes theft/tampering of Secret / Private Keys extremely difficult.

Secret / Private Keys can easily be deleted, lost, or copied through password-based sign-up, reset and recovery processes.

Breach Detection and Response

Vouch / Decentralized

Centralized Systems

Blockchain stores all actions and events with absolute certainty. Breaches are easily detected and can be remedied automatically.

Breaches are difficult to detect and remedies are slow to execute as fake identities, devices and compromised firmware can’t be excluded with high confidence.

Make Security Simpler / More Accessible

Vouch / Decentralized

Centralized Systems

Systemic simplification includes client BYOD, SMS sign-up and authorization, broad decentralization of security access and enforcement.

Centralized security grows more complex and process intensive as the system grows.

System Costs

Vouch / Decentralized

Centralized Systems

System costs remain linear as the system grows.

System costs escalate as the system grows.

Key Take-Away:

Vouch removes the need for a centralized CA infrastructure and the single private key dependency for both device identities and software/firmware updates.

Learn more on how Vouch secures IOT devices.