Exploring Operating Systems for the Internet of Things

July 27, 2016
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2 min read

As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more and more prevalent, the demand for technologies to manage and secure these connected devices more efficiently becomes greater.

An operating system designed specifically for the IoT is one potential solution. While there are currently operating systems capable of handling the requirements of an IoT device, it’s simply not enough.

After all, the Internet of Things is not just about the single device; it’s also about the service ecosystem that provides most of the value and functionality to the users. That’s why operating systems developed from the ground-up with IoT in mind are going to be valuable.

The Future of the Internet of Things

A couple of these IoT-focused operating systems were announced last year: Microsoft’s Windows 10 IoT and Google’s Brillo.

While neither of these operating systems has been officially released, they look promising and are poised to become more significant in the future. They are also potentially interesting targets for security-minded folks — attackers and defenders alike.

For a security researcher, investigating a new technology is a significant part of the job. Understanding the inner workings of a complex technology such as a new operating system, especially in an exploding field like IoT, is very exciting. It also goes without saying that assessing the security of these connected devices will become an important part of a security researcher’s job in the future.

Securing IoT Devices

When assessing IoT devices, we need to think about their attack surface. This includes network communications between the device and its service ecosystem, network services running on the device and the applications running on the device.

We need to know if it communicates securely with the cloud. We also need to know what services are running and if they even need to be running at all. In the event an attacker gains access, we need to know the extent of damage they can do.

To do all this, we must know the various techniques and methods of analyzing a device. Only after understanding and doing all this can we make effective recommendations to manufacturers and users regarding how to secure these devices.

Go In-Depth at Black Hat USA

I will be giving a talk about the attack surface and security assessment of the Windows 10 IoT Core operating system at this year’s Black Hat USA conference.

My talk, titled “Into the Core: In-Depth Exploration of Windows 10 IoT Core,” is scheduled for Aug. 3, 2016, at 3 p.m. in the South Seas IJ room. Hope to see you there!

Paul Sabanal
Security Researcher, IBM

Paul Sabanal is a security researcher on IBM Security Systems’s X-Force Advanced Research Team. He has more than a decade of experience in the information ...
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