PKI Management for IoT


Gone are the days when inanimate objects coming to life and thinking on their own was a chapter out of a science fiction novel. With a bunch of sensors, a wireless network, and a data management system, any “dumb” object can be turned into a “smart” device that’s capable of talking not just to humans but to other such smart devices as well. IoT took the world by storm right from when it was conceived as a concept. There’s no realm that the IoT wave has left untouched – be it consumer or commercial, enterprise or industry. IoT has made inroads into every one of them, and it’s here to stay and grow.

Industries, in particular, are more amenable to the idea of IoT, especially those in the manufacturing and energy sectors. This is because the use of software for monitoring and automation isn’t new to them– these sectors have been extensively using SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition systems) to remotely view and control performance metrics and equipment functioning in real-time. In a sense, SCADA can be viewed as a toned-down version of IoT. However, SCADA is more centralized, and the protocols, hardware, and software used in it are quite restrictive – making the whole setup rigid and less open to changes.

The Rise and Rise of IoT

Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, calls for higher connectivity and smarter operations, and this is where IoT (Internet of Things) works its charm. IoT offers more openness and standardization than traditional SCADA systems, and also wider coverage. IoT also reduces the dependence on humans, as machines can communicate and coordinate with each other to optimize output without human interference. Proper implementation of IoT in industry can work wonders for productivity – reducing manual labour and the errors that come with it. It also scales up infinitely -or at least as much as the network would allow – so you can go on adding devices, especially when you expand.

With the exponential rise in IoT devices (they’re projected to rise to 200 billion by 2020), ease of communication between devices and security are two aspects in IoT to watch out for.
The USP of IoT is effortless connection – having to enter passwords and exchange tokens for each time the devices need to communicate defeats its purpose. Besides, having a multi-step authorization process with static identities opens up more opportunities for data breaches.

Security concerns in IoT

IoT devices aren’t like conventional electronic devices, say laptops and smartphones that have built-in security functions. IoT devices are of myriad types and may use many different, non-standard software and vendor-oriented technologies that make implementing security measures in them extremely difficult. Some devices might transmit data in its unencrypted form, making it easy for hackers to launch their attacks.

Security lapses in IoT devices could occur at any stage – during manufacture, induction into the network, or software updates. These lapses open portals for hackers to smuggle in malware and corrupt the device. Since the devices are all connected, an anomaly in one device could compromise the entire network and cause other devices to malfunction as well. The repercussions could go as far as to affect the core network infrastructure and bring it down.

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Using PKI Certificates for IoT devices

A PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) offers a one-size-fits-all solution for all IoT devices, however unique they are. It employs X.509 digital certificates to identify devices, authenticate them, and encrypt data that flows between them. It removes the need for passwords and protracted authorization checks – devices can just identify each other with their public key and start exchanging data.

With point-to-point encryption and foolproof authentication, PKI certificates provide a safe environment for IoT devices to function without having to worry about data leakage and hacking concerns. They authenticate software upgrades as well- making it impossible for hackers to break into the network. PKIs are a core concept in TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol, and implementing them into IoT can bring much-needed standardization and security to it.

PKI certificates can be obtained from a trusted CA (Certificate Authority).

Managing PKI certificates for IoT

PKI certificates do not guarantee security by themselves — their efficacy depends on how well they’re managed. In-house PKI management is not a viable option for IoT devices owing to their sheer number. A factory could easily be using thousands of IoT devices, and managing their certificates in-house levies an unnecessary strain on resources. Moreover, even one expired or compromised certificate left undetected can wreak havoc on the whole network, leading to outages and rampant attacks.

Managed PKI solutions offer end-to-end automation of certificates and keys, regardless of their numbers or where they’re stored (HSMs, local file systems, etc.). They routinely scan your networks for certificates, provide a comprehensive report of their status, and send immediate alerts in case they detect an anomaly rising out of an expired or compromised certificate.

How AppViewX CERT+ helps you manage PKIs for IoT

AppViewX CERT+ helps organizations strengthen their IoT PKI by automating every step in its management. It discovers, inventories, provisions, renews, and revokes certificates with minimal human investment, and makes certificate management incredibly easy by supporting ACME, SCEP, and EST protocols. It’s platform-agnostic and provides multi-vendor support, so you can manage all PKI-related activities from a single platform. Be it CSR or moving from one CA to another, our platform has got you covered.

CERT+ provides an FIPS-compliant, AES-256 encrypted keystore to store all your certificates and keys, and integrates with popular HSMs as well. You can also use SDKs provided by AppViewX to deeply integrate with your IoT devices, eliminating the tedium involved in hardcoding APIs. The platform scales with your devices, so you don’t have to worry about investing in additional infrastructure.

Try AppViewX CERT+ now, or book a demo with us.

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