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Micron Launches Silicon-Based Security-as-a-Service Platform

New Hardware-based Security Solution Helps Secure IoT Devices at the Silicon Level

The IoT can arguably be defined in two categories: low capacity small embedded things (like sensors within an industrial control environment), and more powerful edge devices (like routers, smart TVs, in-car entertainment systems and so on). According to Gartner, there will be 30 billion IoT devices in use by 2020, and according to Statista, this will grow to almost 75.5 billion by 2025. Both categories, intelligent edge devices and dumb sensors, require better security than most currently receive.

The market growth figures demonstrate, however, that the greatest number of IoT devices that will be in use within the next few years are yet to be deployed. This provides the opportunity to secure the future IoT if action is taken now. This is where the difference between the low capacity sensor-type IoT devices and the greater capacity edge devices becomes important. The former cannot contain security, and require security to be layered around the embedded devices. The latter, however, have sufficient capacity to contain their own security.

It is for this latter category of edge devices that Micron has announced a new silicon-based security-as-a-service platform for edge devices -- the Authenta Key Management Service. The service starts with the device manufacturer who installs Micron's latest Authenta flash, which uses existing standard non-volatile memory (NVM) sockets. The new key management Authenta can either leverage available slots, or replace older Authenta flash memory -- it does not require device manufacturers to re-engineer the hardware.

The new service, says Micron, "allows installed Authenta-enabled devices to be switched on through a cloud-based service, mitigating some of the biggest challenges and complexities related to securing devices in an 'everything connected' environment." Current methods of securing these devices have limitations. They "typically center on one of three common practices," says Micron: "adding secure elements, which is costly and difficult to scale; leveraging secure key injection in the SoC, which creates a fragmented architecture; or simply doing nothing, which puts devices below market and compliance standards."

Amit Gattani, senior director of embedded segment marketing for Micron’s Embedded Business Unit, adds, "Securing a diverse set of IoT edge devices through the complete product lifecycle -- from the supply chain to in-field management -- requires a novel, simple, scalable and cost-effective approach. Authenta KMS provides a trusted and unique silicon-to-cloud service for all 'connected things' using Authenta-enabled flash devices."

Security is placed into the device with Authenta flash installation at the manufacturer. The new KMS service allows this security to be activated and managed on the edge device after deployment through a cloud-based service. Its unique capabilities include no additional chip requirement, secure installation of software and data at the point of manufacture but managed after delivery (effectively securing the supply chain), security hardening through immutable ROM areas, and flexible provisioning that includes binding the credentials in the field after deployment.

"The electronics industry needs to mitigate the growing security concerns from today's fragmented and vulnerable IoT supply chain," said Tom Katsioulas, board member of the GSA Trusted Supply Chain working group and head of TrustChain operations at Siemens business, Mentor. "We are pleased to see Micron's introduction of Authenta Key Management Service, which promises to provide a strong foundation of early provenance and traceability in the supply chain and in the enablement of trusted device services."

Such a solution to edge device IoT security requires it to be adopted by a large section of the industry manufacturing the devices. Micron was founded in Boise, Idaho, in 1978. It focuses on producing semiconductor products, including random access memory and flash drives. In 2006, together with Intel, it founded IM Flash Technologies, which produces NAND flash memory. In 2018 it figured at 105 of the Fortune 500, having previously been number 150. 

It therefore has the history and pedigree to potentially change the way edge devices are secured, and already boasts a formidable Authenta partnership that includes Fornetix and Rambus, Siemens-Mentor and Secure Platforms, Azure and AWS, and Xilinx and NXP.

Related: New Blockchain Solution for IIoT Aims to Solve Scaling Problem 

Related: Microsoft Makes Azure Security Center for IoT Generally Available 

Related: How IoT Opens the Door for Insider Attacks Against Industrial Infrastructure 

Related: Palo Alto Networks Acquires IoT Security Firm Zingbox for $75 Million

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Kevin Townsend is a Senior Contributor at SecurityWeek. He has been writing about high tech issues since before the birth of Microsoft. For the last 15 years he has specialized in information security; and has had many thousands of articles published in dozens of different magazines – from The Times and the Financial Times to current and long-gone computer magazines.