Wearables are only a small part of the Internet of Things (IoT), a complicated mesh of smart devices, mobile phones, and several applications working together in a digital ecosystem.
The IoT "user experience" is a product of interactions between wearables, smartphones, and applications and analytics software hosted in the cloud. Securing this web of hardware and software is a tricky challenge for companies accelerating into the IoT, an environment that didn't exist until a few years ago, says Deep Armor founder and CEO Sumanth Naropanth.
"What we're seeing industry-wide is that this class of products is somewhat initiating a paradigm shift in the entire security development lifecycle," he explains. "[Businesses] are now responsible for changing the old security development lifecycle (SDL) frameworks and best practices into something more agile."
At this year's Black Hat Asia, taking place March 23–26 in Singapore, Naropanth will discuss security and privacy research related to the development of IoT devices, including a custom SDL designed to incorporate wearables, phones, and the cloud. The session will elaborate on flaws and privacy issues related to IoT, and best practices for building new connected products.
[Learn more about the IoT security shift in Black Hat Asia session "Securing Your In-Ear Fitness Coach: Challenges in Hardening Next Generation Wearables," in which Naropanth will discuss gaps in IoT security and necessary changes to the software development lifecycle.]
Sumanth says it's time for businesses to think about the bigger picture and secure the broader IoT ecosystem rather than getting bogged down with ingredient-level IoT security. This means not only securing individual devices but the software and services connecting them.
"Looking at a fitness tracker or IoT device, what you see is really not everything that exists," he explains. "It's like the tip of the iceberg." Behind the small activity monitor on your wrist is an array of APIs, Web portals, cloud services, and more often than not, a mobile application.
Speed vs. Security
Businesses in the IoT market are learning how to be more agile, Naropanth explains. This is especially relevant to startups, which often view security as an "expense without returns."
This isn't true when in wearables and IoT. Now companies are worried about things like securing the hardware, doing secure boot, updating mobile phones securely, and doing crypto on a very limited IoT software stack — all before launching their products before anyone else. Most enterprises working on IoT and wearables are actually taking it seriously, he adds.
"The challenge for them is more about how to balance their time to market with adequate enough security so the product is at least reasonably secure when it goes out the door," Naropanth says.
A key component of this updated SDL is evaluating the ecosystem. Your company may be building a fitness tracker that has to work with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or a cloud-based component someone else has developed. It's your job to navigate the interoperability challenges related to the hardware and software connecting to the wearable.
Developing for the IoT: What to Keep in Mind
Sumanth explains two best practices for IoT businesses to prioritize as they create and connect new products. The first: getting the security and product teams on the same page.
"Catching security weaknesses earlier and earlier in the product lifecycle — it helps everyone," he says. "For the company and for the enterprise, it saves a lot of money." It's better to catch security weaknesses early than when code is about to ship. If errors are found later on, a larger team is needed to address the problem," he adds.
"We strongly encourage product teams to engage with the security team early in the process. It helps us find the weaknesses early on and reduce the number of bugs that get caught later."
Naropanth also recommends IoT developers to look at existing vulnerabilities from an IoT point of view. Often, old flaws can have a "butterfly effect" in the IoT and lead to wearable devices getting bricked. Furthermore, vulnerabilities in some parts of the IoT — for example, a smartphone — can affect other connected devices.
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