SPARTA Results

Secure Firmware Updates for Constrained IoT Devices Using Open Standards: A Reality Check

K. Zandberg, K. Schleiser, F. Acosta, H. Tschofenig, and E. Baccelli

While IoT deployments multiply in a wide variety of verticals, most IoT devices lack a built-in secure firmware update mechanism. Without such a mechanism, however, critical security vulnerabilities cannot be fixed, and IoT devices can become a permanent liability, as demonstrated by recent large-scale attacks. In this paper, we survey open standards and open source libraries that provide useful building blocks for secure firmware updates for constrained IoT devices – by which we mean low-power, microcontroller-based devices such as networked sensors/actuators with a small amount of memory, among other constraints. We design and implement a prototype that leverages these building blocks and assess the security properties of this prototype. We present experimental results, including first experiments with SUIT, a new IETF standard for secure IoT firmware updates. We evaluate the performance of our implementation on a variety of commercial off-the-shelf constrained IoT devices. We conclude that it is possible to create a secure, standards- compliant firmware update solution that uses state-of-the-art security for IoT devices with less than 32kB of RAM and 128kB of flash memory.

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