Increase security of IoT Devices with Microsoft Azure Sphere

Challenge

The number of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices worldwide will jump 12 percent on average annually, from nearly 27 billion in 2017 to 125 billion in 2030, according to recent studies. In the coming years, almost every household appliance, every industrial device and every electronic gadget will be connected to the internet. The possibilities to improve our lives are almost endless…

However, Internet connectivity is not a one-way street; if the IoT devices are able to connect to the Internet, chances are that it is technically possible to connect back through this communication channel, and reach back to the devices in your house; image how it would be if a hacker could

  • get access to the security cameras in your house;
  • control implantable cardiac devices (cardiac devices from St. Jude, 2017);
  • control the webcams at home (TRENDnet Webcam Hack);
  • take over the steering wheel of your car whilst driving (the Jeep Hack, 2015);

All IoT devices have a tiny chip, often smaller than the size of your thumbnail, called a microcontroller (MCU). The MCU functions as the brain of the device, hosting the compute, storage, memory, and an operating system right on the device. Most hackers will target this MCU to gain access to the device;

Microsoft Azure Sphere to the rescue

Microsoft has been investigating the IoT security challenge for many years, and identified:

  • the need for a hardware root of trust to protect and defend the software on a device;
  • the need for multiple layers of defense-in-depth, both in hardware and in software, to stop hackers even if they fully breach one layer of security;
  • the need for hardware, software, and cloud to work together to secure a device.

Mid april 2017, Microsoft announced Azure Sphere, a new solution for creating highly-secured, Internet-connected microcontroller (MCU) devices. Azure Sphere includes three components that work together to protect and power devices at the intelligent edge.

  • Azure Sphere certified microcontrollers (MCUs): A new class of MCUs that combines both real-time and application processors with built-in Microsoft security technology and connectivity.
  • Azure Sphere OS: This OS is purpose-built to offer unequalled security and agility, using multiple layers of security. It combines security innovations, a security monitor, and a custom Linux kernel to create a highly-secured software environment and a trustworthy platform for new IoT experiences.
  • Azure Sphere Security Service: A cloud service that guards every Azure Sphere device; brokering trust for device-to-device and device-to-cloud communication through certificate-based authentication, detecting emerging security threats across the entire Azure Sphere ecosystem through online failure reporting, and renewing security through software updates.

Azure Sphere is currently in private preview. Microsoft is working closely with device manufacturers to build future products powered by Azure Sphere. The first secured devices are expected to be available by the end of 2018. At Inimco we are very interested in this technological evolution, as security always is top priority in our IoT implementations!