The importance of identity in IoT

August 27, 2019 // By Marc Canel
Identity is a fundamental building block of security. It is a complex concept that gets implemented in multiple dimensions. It is the mean by which trust gets established between actors in the ecosystem. It drives security in supply chains and in the operations of products.

The identity of an Internet of Things (IoT) device is the aggregate information from all its sub-elements. A device has multiple building blocks: some of them are physical, others are logical. Building blocks are nested within other ones: the board is made up of the main applications processor, other processors such as graphics processing units (GPUs) and passives. The board has an identity and so do the application processors and the GPU. The software includes device drivers, hypervisors, virtual machines that host the operating systems and the applications. Each one of these elements has an identity.

Each element in the device, either physical or logical, has attributes. It may have been certified; it may have dependencies upon other elements. It may include data that represents a standardized identity such as an IP address or a MAC Address. In some cases, the element is a very secure container such as a SIM, or an eSIM or an iSIM that will represent an identity with the cellular operator and certain rights to the regulated airwaves.

Identity of these elements can change over time. IP Addresses and iSIM information can vary depending upon the operator that owns the resource that is accessed from the device. The device will update its software, new capabilities and applications get installed: they are rolled out within the framework of new hardware or software functions with their own provisioning materials and credentials. These new elements bring identity materials with attributes and they contribute to the overall identity of the device.

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