Mar 14, 2019

For IoT Security, an Integrated SIM Makes Common Sense

By Avishay Shraga, Head of Security Technologies

Previously, we examined the benefits of the integrated SIM (iSIM) and how it will help simplify the development process of new IoT applications, while reducing costs and optimizing device performance.

But that simplification is the benefit of the integration. What’s the benefit of the SIM itself?

Can it offer the same levels of security as an external SIM?

As it turns out, not only does the integrated SIM (iSIM) follow industry security standards, but it improves IoT Security in one significant way: It provides protection to a key point of exposure.

The improvement occurs at the level of the interface between the SIM and the modem. External SIMs leave that interface exposed. Therefore, hackers could potentially access the interface to either virtually duplicate SIMs by routing multiple modem requests to a single SIM, or by extracting ephemeral keys which could allow for eavesdropping on network communications.

Consumer devices, such as smartphones, do not usually experience this problem, thanks to the user’s constant interaction with the device. Since a phone seldom leaves its owner it is harder for a hacker to be able to set up the physical tools necessary to gain SIM access without the user noticing. Even if they do manage to do so, the owner may quickly notice and contact their cellular provider to shut down all access.

However, with many IoT applications, human-machine interaction is far rarer. In some cases, it could even be users themselves trying to gain illicit access. The integrated SIM provides a solution to this by keeping the interface protected and unreachable without getting into the chip itself. By removing the simplest attack vector, the cost of virtual cloning or extracting the ephemeral keys increases significantly to the point of not being worthwhile.

Besides removing the easiest way to interface with a SIM, the iSIM should also be able to provide carrier-grade security as an external SIM. The foundation of this is achieved through an optimized and highly integrated chipset, comprising a hardware-based security framework. This can then be combined with a secure SIM operating system, which animates the software to bring security levels up to the rigorous industry standards.

There is no question that the industry will soon begin to widely adopt the integrated SIM (iSIM). Devices need to get smaller and cheaper and they need to be able to work off the shelf. An iSIM provides the ideal method to do this.