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Low power, low energy and high security: dream or reality?

Meet the Experts Theater Tuesday, July 09
1:35pm to 2:05pm

In this presentation we will discuss the needs and applications for low power and low energy in embedded systems, where security is a must-have ingredient for maintaining strict access control, secure communication, end-to-end encryption or simply making sure the data that gets exchanged cannot be intercepted nor read by any unauthorized party. The most typical scenario where low power and low energy is required is in the domain of small embedded systems that require mobility; when a device such as a mobile phone, or an IoT sensor is not permanently plugged in, it has to draw its energy from a battery, and thus highly constrained environments and power efficiency become the norm for these devices; on the other hand, in those same scenarios, the devices will be unplugged and sitting remotely in a location where they don’t get monitored all the time, and occasionally wake up to send information; or they might perhaps be hand-held and in the attackers hands and thus have to withstand serious attempts to breach the security of the data held within, or the access modules they contain. Some classical examples on mobile phones include having to protect credentials for access to the telecommunications operator’s network , or access credentials to a personal bank account via a banking app, or collected data on an IoT device which sends back the information to a more powerful gateway or aggregator. Another example worth mentioning is RFID tags, in which the tags get powered by the reader itself, and need to consume the absolute smallest amount of energy possible.

These scenarios all result in users wanting to achieve both power efficiency and high security. And in the most tiniest and constrained environments possible.

Some solutions already exist in this area and it can be said that industry has been able to tackle the problem in some elegant ways; we will see and discuss some of the solutions here; they will also get addressed in later talks.

But overall, there are some minimum security requirements that have to be met for such systems to be workable. The strict minimum being a hardware root of trust, a secure boot sequence establishing a secure computation environment, strictly controlled boundaries for running sensitive code, keys for identifying the device and being able to run a minimum set of cryptographic primitives that allow to mutually authenticate with a third party and to encrypt and decrypt incoming and outgoing data; in addition there is a need for strong protection against remote software attacks, localized non-invasive attacks such as side-channel attacks, and even against fully invasive attacks such as fault injection attacks or FIB attacks in order to protect the highest value assets in these embedded devices.>/p> >p>Overall, the game is one of being able to assess the correct threat model and attack scenarios for the specific security system and always trying to remain one step ahead of the attacker when it comes to fixing newly discovered vulnerabilities and protecting against a plethora of potential scenarios.

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