The IoT Landscape: Importance of Microcontroller Security

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The IoT Landscape: Importance of Microcontroller Security The IoT Landscape: Importance of Microcontroller Security

Introduction to the IoT Landscape

The Internet of Things (IoT) landscape involves a great variety of accessible connectivity alternatives harmonized across various sectors. IoT devices are commonly used in smart homes, cities, and transportation, where each device is interconnected to one another through a global network, radiofrequency identification technology and wireless sensor networks being among the first forms of connectivity for IoT devices. 

The most common aim of producing an IoT device is its availability and reliability. Over the years, the landscape of IoT has changed considerably, adopting new perspectives, attitudes, and patterns. As a result, IoT has become a top priority amongst many organizations. Due to this increase in demand, IoT developers started to put more effort into the development. According to statistics, more than 90% are planning on investing in IoT devices from a variety of electronic suppliers over the next 12 months. Most organizations see this as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage and reduce operational costs. 

As a result, organizations have become more ambitious and open to planning and deploying services and applications, so the IoT market has grown considerably. Such operations, however, can remain challenging. This may be down to recent advancements in IoT technologies, adding complexity and broadening the scope to expand such strategies. In addition, IoT security remains a challenge for many organizations.

Security is becoming increasingly important for embedded systems as they evolve from standalone applications to connected applications that store, receive, and transmit data. Despite limited memory resources, such requirements are spread across even the smallest implementations. 

This blog reviews the most relevant factors concerning microcontroller security implementations and what they entail for such small embedded systems. 

Problems Posed by Insecure IoT

Loss of Revenues

With increasing connection comes greater potential for fraud and cyber attacks. If remotely enabled features and usage-based business models are not securely implemented, they are potentially subject to fraud and revenue loss.

Lawsuits

Such fraud can further lead to undesirable litigation if the designed products don’t contain the necessary security features, failing to protect customer data.

Regulatory Fines

Litigation can further lead to regulatory fines. Since data privacy is one of the consumers’ most highly-regarded and protected rights, businesses can deal with significant penalties and sanctions if they fail to secure end-to-end data adequately.

Intellectual Property Theft

The information for new and innovative IoT technologies is contained within the software and Artificial intelligence (AI). Therefore, a lack of security will inevitably result in the theft of IP.

Inaccurate Data

Without properly secured data, the information with IoT devices can easily be manipulated or stolen. Unfortunately, this will lead to inaccurate data, resulting in business decisions based on wrong information, preventing any benefits IoT devices or processes have to offer.

Microcontroller Function in IoT

Every day, a new set of devices is put out into the market that is part of the IoT. These devices are all connected to the internet via embedded systems in which large amounts of data are stored and processed within the cloud. Unfortunately, this makes them prone to hacking and other cyber attacks. 

For instance, an IoT device could be used for data transmissions; however, nothing can protect the device if its software and/or hardware is attacked. This is where microcontrollers come in. 

Although the properties of microcontrollers depend on the given application, their basic underlying ability to connect IoT devices to the hybrid cloud in order to achieve the utmost benefit is the same for every IoT application.

Ways Microcontrollers Secure Devices Within IoT

Securing data is one of the biggest concerns of microcontroller function by designers and end consumers using IoT devices.

The manufacturers of microcontrollers often bring security measures into action in order to prevent access from malicious activities, such as data encryption and shield layers.

Moreover, manufacturers are creating further specially designed security chips in order to integrate with the microcontroller to store encryption keys and user credentials securely.

Below are some of the primary security features microcontrollers offer to IoT devices and processes.

Tamper Detection

Tamper pins are a handy hardware feature. However, as some hardware attacks require the attacker to physically remove parts or put injected code into the IoT device in order to gain access to I/O, tamper pins are designed to be robust and hard to detect.

A tamper pin works by detecting whether an external mechanical event has occurred. Once it detects an event, such as opening an enclosure, the tamper pin instructs the processor to perform a routine, such as a reboot, to prevent sensitive data from being read or a complete memory wipe. 

To prevent such attacks, some microcontrollers have built-in tamper detection, which detects these activities and protects the IoT device from coming under attack.

Cryptographic Accelerator

A cryptographic accelerator is one of the earliest forms of hardware security.

Sometimes manufacturers integrate a hardware accelerator with specific algorithms in the microcontroller to speed up this process.

The cryptographic encryption and decryption process consumes the microcontroller’s memory and processing power and slows down other activities or events.

Aside from the accelerator chip, the cryptographic efficiency depends on the algorithm they’re using.

Conductive Shield Layer

Microcontrollers often use network interfaces, such as Bluetooth or WiFi, to communicate with other devices or the application itself. Sometimes attackers use an algorithm to read the internal signals to get inside the microcontroller and control the device; However, conductive shield layers prevent any reads and writing on the internal signals.

Memory Protection Units

Memory protection units are computer hardware that provides memory protection to the IoT device. They have usually reduced versions of memory protection support and are typically implemented as part of the central processing unit.

Memory protection units help the microcontroller control what memory can be read, written, or executed. Although Memory protection units don’t always come in-built with microcontrollers, it is wise to choose one that does.

Conclusion

It is important not to let IoT devices initiate network connections on their own without the proper security, as critical data could be leaked and stolen.

This blog shows that IoT devices can be secured by implementing active security measures in both their software and hardware by specially manufactured IoT microcontrollers.

In this way, businesses can develop devices with the necessary hardware and software installed on them and continuously check to ensure that no threats or gaps in security are apparent. Therefore, keeping hardware and software up-to-date by selecting the right product portfolio illustrating a variety of microcontroller examples is critical in the fight against IoT security risks.

1 Nov 2023

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