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To solve IoT security, look at the big picture, ARM says

Stephen Lawson | Oct. 28, 2016
ARM's new mbed Cloud for device management is part of its IoT strategy, and so are server and network chips

The recent DDoS attacks launched from IoT devices demonstrate that the internet of things spans all parts of IT and that most companies deploying it still need a lot of help.

That's the message from ARM, the chip design company behind nearly every smartphone and a big chunk of IoT, at its annual TechCon event this week in Silicon Valley.

Small, low-power devices like sensors and security cameras are the most visible part of IoT, and they’re right in ARM’s wheelhouse as the dominant force in low-power chips. But on Wednesday, the company highlighted a cloud-based SaaS offering rather than chips or edge devices themselves. IoT depends on back-end capabilities as much as edge devices, and the company wants to play a role in all of it.

The SaaS platform, called mbed Cloud, handles device connection and setup, encryption-key provisioning, and firmware updates. Anyone selling IoT devices or deploying them across an organization can use mbed Cloud for any or all of these functions, ARM says. With some extra work, it can serve non-ARM devices, too.

In recent DDoS attacks, hackers built botnets out of thousands of connected devices. Making them vulnerable were default passwords that were the same on every device, letting attackers take over the devices. So it’s clear that some IoT manufacturers need help locking down products and keeping them secure, ARM executives said.

“It’s no longer just a matter of ‘build a product, throw it over the wall, and let the consumer deal with it,’” said Michael Horne, vice president of marketing and sales in ARM’s IoT division. The mbed Cloud service provides for individual device authentication and ongoing security updates to defend against new threats.

Whether they make baby monitors or jet-engine sensors, many IoT device vendors need outside help on security, IDC analyst Shane Rau said. IoT evolved from specialized, isolated devices built for vertical industries, with no provision for security. Now developers are looking outside their own fields for general features like security. ARM is in a good position to provide those, through offerings like mbed Cloud, because its designs are at the heart of so many embedded chips, he said.

20161026 arm ceo simon segars 
ARM CEO Simon Segars spoke at a media roundtable at ARM TechCon in Santa Clara, California, on Oct. 26, 2016.

“You can reinvent the wheel, or you can use this,” ARM CEO Simon Segars told reporters at the conference. “We think we can help defragment what is otherwise going to be an incredibly fragmented -- and probably weaker as a result -- set of solutions.”


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