No One Silver Bullet: Q&A with Lorie Wigle, Intel IoT Security
Security as it relates to the IoT, device makers, smart homes, the smart grid, medical devices, POS and more.
Embedded Intel Solutions (EIS): Lorie, could you tell us a bit about your role at Intel?
Lorie Wigle, Intel IoT Security: I am the general manager for IoT Security for Intel. I’ve been with the company for almost 32 years, and I have been working in the IoT Security arena for the last two-and-a-half years. My role is fascinating since it spans all of the technologies and product groups that are relevant for IoT Security.
EIS: IoT Security involves a number of different areas.
Wigle: Exactly. IoT has to do with the small devices at the edge and how they get connected to a network, whether it’s a public Internet or a private network. Also involved are all of the analytics and decision-making that can happen in the Cloud. We [Intel] are in all of those places, and so we have a pretty good end-to-end view of what an integrated and efficient IoT system should look like.
EIS: What stood out for you in the results released March 31 of this year of Intel’s “Smart Homes and the Internet of Things” survey?
Wigle: One thing that stood out is that people do believe that smart homes are going to be as common in 2025 as smartphones are today. Maybe we haven’t found the “killer app” yet for smart homes, but technology is progressing in a way that people find believable.
Also, it’s very important for people like your readers, and for companies like Intel, to very much take to heart the concerns that are voiced about security in these smart home implementations and what can be done to make security stronger and easier to use. Another thing that caught my eye is how many people—in fact more than half—are willing to trade personal data collected by their smart home exchange for some kind of monetary benefit such as a discount.
One of the interesting implications for us in the vendor community is: people are expecting that vendors are going to inform them when their data is being used. That is a reminder for us to have good privacy policies in place, and in fact if you look at some of the results and concerns that come up, [it’s] not just about security being breached, but also about the corresponding loss of personal data that might occur. The survey is a good reminder to the vendor community of some of the things we should be building into our products.
EIS: Is the term “hardening” when used in the context of IoT security sometimes misunderstood or not fully understood?
Wigle: I think it is misunderstood. When we [Intel] talk about hardening the device, what we are comprehending is: it is not just a one-time thing, and it’s not just one technology. What often happens in IoT is that people want to gravitate to a silver bullet—they want to find one thing, maybe it’s encryption—and the thought process goes something like, if they just have encryption in their device, then it’s secure. The reality is encryption is going to address just part of the threat.
When we think about hardening we need to think about the whole threat environment and how we protect against all the different forms of attack that are relevant to that use case. We also need to think about how we operationalize security, because—think about cars, think about industrial and devices that could be in the market for a decade or more—what we know as threats today are going to be very different from the threats five years from now. People need to be able to get updates and keep their security current for an evolving threat environment.
EIS: You have had the opportunity to think about the challenges involved in securing the smart grid.
Wigle: Yes, former [Intel] president Renee James actively sponsored the acquisitions of both McAfee and Wind River for Intel, and she was looking for an opportunity for the two companies to work together. I had been working on Energy Systems, and particularly the smart grid and its evolution, and found that there was a really interesting opportunity to work on smart grid security. I took that proposal to her [James] and she said, “Great, I really want you to do that, and I would like you to go and sit at the McAfee organization to work on it.”
So it was a little bit like being in candy store in that we had this wonderful use case of the smart grid that was starting to take shape, with legacy devices that had never been connected before and substantial investment in power systems that needed to be preserved. We took a holistic approach, using some McAfee technology and some Wind River techniques for hardening the device. It meant doing more than just using more than just one technology. We looked, at how the technologies could be brought together and integrated. It wasn’t just about putting a wall around a device, but also about making sure that the data and communications were protected.
Also highly important is managing and monitoring the security. The threat landscape is evolving, so it’s crucial that we look at the whole threat landscape and the whole defense life cycle: So we need to protect—that would be hardening the device and putting things like a tunnel in place for the communications. We also need to detect when we’re under attack, because we might want to implement different policies, and then if we do have some kind of penetration, being able to correct that. Taking into account the whole threat-defense life cycle led to using the ingredients from all the different parts of Intel and then layering on the McAfee security software on top of hardened operating systems and virtualization technology from Wind River.
The other thing that I think is really interesting about this particular smart grid use case is that we had really useful security technologies, but it wasn’t like you could just take them from a PC and drop them into a [electrical power grid] substation. Some industrial IoT vulnerabilities and the threat vectors may be similar to those of IT, but the priorities are pretty different. For Industrial IoT especially, availability is the most important consideration. While typically in IT security we would talk about confidentiality and integrity and availability, when you are running a power grid it’s availability, availability, availability. It becomes very much the paramount concern.
EIS: The “More Confidence, Safety, and Security in the Digital World” white paper notes that although the Intel Data Protection Technology for Transactions solution “was initially developed for the retail industry, it can potentially be used to help secure a variety of Internet of Things solutions.” Can you offer an example?
Wigle: One example of where Intel Data Protection Technology for Transactions [DPT] or something similar to it is really appropriate would be with medical devices, where it is going to be extremely critical that both the medical data and the identity of the patient be protected very carefully. A key take away from the Intel DPT that we can apply to other markets is that, as noted earlier, security involves a number of elements. For example, you would not stop at a credit card reader that is hardened. You also need a secure connection between the credit card reader and the point of sale terminal and then to the cloud network, with data that is all encrypted.
And one of the things that this technology does that is going to be more and more important I think in sophisticated IoT systems is there is very clear authentication and attestation of all the pieces of the chain: So the POS knows that the credit card reader’s integrity hasn’t been modified and that it is the device that it is expecting to get data from. And there is a similar attestation and authentication that happens between the POS and the Cloud system.
Over time we are going to see a lot more emphasis on those types of technologies so that we can absolutely guarantee the integrity of the data that we are using in these IoT systems. As we have become much more reliant on them we need to know that nothing has been tampered with throughout the chain in the system of systems.
EIS: What’s ahead?
Wigle: Working on straightforward recommendations for device makers in particular concerning the security features that they should put in place. Those are things like: Implement secure boot, so that you know that the device has not been tampered with— that it is still running the software you intended it to run; Make sure that there is secure storage on the device so that you can store protected material; Make sure that you have device-based identity—we would prefer that it be the Intel Enhanced Privacy ID (EPID) technology, and we are freely licensing that to other silicon makers because we think it is an important technology for the industry. And have a trusted execution environment where you can run protected code, including, in a lot of cases, for IoT devices.
As an example, your smart refrigerator is only going to do smart refrigerator things, it is not going to do general purpose computing, so you don’t need to do virus protection for it. You can tell it: these are the only applications you are allowed to run and you can control that. We call that whitelisting. That’s a really effective way of hardening an IoT device.
The more that we as an industry can get to: First of all, if you are a device maker, here are the things you really should do, and then, if you are a larger manufacturer, maybe you are developing an end-to-end service that might use something like Intel Data Protection for Transactions or McAfee Enhanced Infrastructure Protection, and here is how you can implement a whole end-to-end system.
We are working closely with the Industrial Internet Consortium to lay out that kind of security framework and also with the Open Connectivity Foundation, which is more focused on the home, so we’ve got both of those bases covered.