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Ed Lee
Ed Lee
Ed Lee has been around EDA since before it was called EDA. He cut his teeth doing Public Relations with Valid, Cadence, Mentor, ECAD, VLSI, AMI and a host of others. And he has introduced more than three dozen EDA startups, ranging from the first commercial IP company to the latest statistical … More »

Security for IoT is a lot like the BORG Collective

July 24th, 2014 by Ed Lee

Bernard Murphy, CTO of Atrenta, talks about the challenges to security that the IoT will bring in our continuing coverage of the IoT panel at DAC…and sees the IoT as a lot like a biological system!!!!

BernardMurphy_picMurphy:  The IoT represents a new level of challenge for security – not just because you have to worry about automotive, medical and so on.  But also, if you believe the numbers, then the number of potential edge nodes in an IoT is on the order of a trillion or more.  That’s two to three orders of magnitude bigger than any existing network you can imagine.  It’s about the number of cells you find in a new born baby.

So a trillion edge nodes looks like a biological system.  Why is that relevant? Because our approach to security today is very atomic….It’s not a system level approach.  You think in terms of system level and you look at analogies with biological systems, then you think in terms of different things.

Of course, you need all the antibodies and antiviruses.  But you also want to think about things like signaling – help I’m under attack.  It’s not the same thing as defending yourself.  You still want to defend.  But you also want to signal to your nearest neighbors or an organization around you that you’re under attack.  It can isolate you or send in defenses.

Hogan:  Bring the white blood cells.

Murphy:  And related to that is a mechanism for behavioral detection as opposed to signature detection.  Everything we know about software viruses is all based today on signature detection.

The problem with that is that it is a very expensive approach in terms of power when you try to get down to these low power nodes.  Why don’t you typically run antivirus on your cell phone?  Because it’s going to consume a lot of power.

So, you need localized defenses.  You need these signaling mechanisms.  In biology there’s this concept of programmed cell death.  I may choose to sacrifice myself if I can’t defend myself any longer, because I’m not going to be able to continue my function, but at a minimum I should try to preserve the health of the system.

Hogan:  The Collective.

Murphy:  Yeah, BORG.  We need to start thinking about security in this bigger IoT context as a system problem, and biology is an interesting analogy for that.


Security is going to be HUGE.  The IoT is not for sissies.  Does it scare you? 

The biology/IoT analogy is way out there and thought provoking. 

Readers……What do you think?  

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3 Responses to “Security for IoT is a lot like the BORG Collective”

  1. MP Divakar says:

    The blog starts on a good premise but does not take it far enough! How does one architect and implement that is both power-efficient and secure at the same time? I hope there is a follow up to this…

  2. Bernard Murphy says:

    Yeah – sorry, this was extracted from a panel I was on at/around DAC. Not enough time on the panel to do more than introduce the idea. There will be a more detailed discussion on this topic, time and format TBD. Will be happy to update you once we have nailed this down.

  3. Bernard Murphy says:

    Finally posted:

    There are no specific hardware design tips – sorry. This is more a system perspective on the topic, which would need to be driven further down to specific hardware and software actions.

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