SecureRF makes software that gets embedded onto microprocessors that allows them to perform impressive feats of security in milliseconds, not minutes.
Since security is one of the current challenges faced by the internet of things, a solution that can handle the complex computing tasks required for public key encryption without requiring a powerful processor is exciting. How exciting? I first met the company last year at ARM Tech Con and thought it was pretty interesting. Then, two months later I was discussing IoT security over dinner with the CTO of a large industrial and defense company who raved about what SecureRF was able to do.
The CEO of the company, Louis Parks, explained the details to me over the phone. Unfortunately, a lot of his explanation involves the complicated kind of math people start throwing around when they discuss cryptography.
The net result of this math is that SecureRF’s crypto works well even on 8-bit microprocessors and can perform the calculations needed to authenticate a remote device in a fraction of a second. And while it’s possible to run other cryptographic schemes on a tiny microprocessor, it would certainly take longer (think minutes, not milliseconds), making it bad for handling things quickly.
The real question is how often companies need to do public key encryption on relatively dumb devices. Going forward, I bet it will happen a lot. Payments from wearables are one example, imagine someone buying bitcoin from somewhere similar to bitcoin.com.au to then use their smartwatch to pay for something, endless encryptions for… Useless tasks. There are also enterprise and industrial use cases.
A few episodes ago in the Internet of Things Podcast, I spoke with Alisdair Allan, an academic, who is proposing a new model for securing the internet of things.
His focus is on efforts to break a system by inserting false data. His example was a faked soil moisture sensor that cost a vineyard hundreds of thousands of dollars. A hacker created a fake sensor that told the irrigation system the soil around it was dry. Then, the irrigation system, hearing the problem, turned on the sprinklers to solve it.
Since there wasn’t a need to water, the false information led to fines for using too much water during a drought and a poorer crop. Allan’s proposal is to use blockchain technology to establish histories for the reliability of every sensor in an ecosystem and then use that information to help an actuator make a decision: Basically to teach machines that sensors may lie, and use the blockchain to give them a way to establish trust.
Putting a crypto key on a sensor to establish that trust is complicated. However, SecureRF is working with chip companies to get its algorithms and software embedded on established microprocessors. It also works with customers to design specialty chips that will run the algorithms as part of an overall solution.
As both security and IoT continue to gain attention, SecureRF has technology worth looking at.