New security for IoT networks
Security breaches to internet of things (IoT) devices pose a major risk. Now, a new system uses artificial intelligence (AI) to secure IoT networks and alert users of threats. Luxembourg-based company HITEC Luxembourg S.A. and their R&D project partners are developing this security for a range of IoT applications.
IoT needs security
“With our solution, we aim to improve the security of IoT networks and make the lives of everybody more secure.” – Linke
The IoT is ubiquitous, as appliances like smart energy meters, fridges and TVs increasingly feature in our homes. Ensuring these devices and their communications networks are protected from hacking is an ongoing challenge. Harold Linke, research and technology projects manager at Luxembourg-based company HITEC Luxembourg, is currently leading an R&D project (CRITISEC) developing security for IoT applications that operate at the periphery of main communications networks.
Protecting IoT networks and applications from security attacks has never been an easy task; IoT devices are small, with limited power and processor possibilities. But HITEC and their international project partners (from Luxembourg, Sweden and Taiwan) are securing communications between IoT devices and working on a way of interpreting information logged by IoT applications to detect anomalies and attacks.
Each different type of IoT application logs activity with non-standardised free text, so it’s a case of analysing the logged information, understanding whether it indicates a security breach (e.g. if someone is trying to force entry with a password) and teaching an AI messages to watch out for. As soon as a threat is recognised, the system sends an alert and mitigation processes to secure the network are set in motion. Linke says this method is “a new approach” to IoT application and network security.
Communications security even in emergencies
From humble beginnings in a Luxembourg garage in 1986, engineering company HITEC Luxembourg has since gained an international reputation for communications solutions. In particular, their Nomadic Satellite Communications system (NoSaCo): a portable and robust satellite system that can be set up in remote locations (e.g. in mountain rescue operations or in the event of a natural disaster) has been a huge success for the company. It is this device that they are securing with CRITISEC first, making it an even more dependable tool for emergency services or refugee camp operators.
“We are developing solutions for public safety services that help them to do their job more securely and more effectively.” – Linke
The NoSaCo product range is regularly used by emergency.lu, an initiative led by the Luxembourg government’s humanitarian agency. It contains all the materials needed to set up a satellite communications network following a natural disaster or in a humanitarian crisis where infrastructure is limited or has been damaged. “Everything is in one big box,” Linke explains. “They take a NoSaCo satellite communications system with them and set this up. In addition, they can set up an IoT network to secure the environment” using IoT devices placed in the surrounding area.
When these IoT devices are motion sensors or heat detectors for rescue operations, it is crucial that information is secure and unfailing. The AI intrusion detector developed during the CRITISEC project is integrated in HITEC Luxembourg’s NoSaCo, meaning it can continuously analyse network and application behaviours and protect these vital communications networks from security dangers.
Expanding the scope to secure other IoT devices
“It’s becoming bigger than we expected. The first idea was to integrate it into NoSaCo, but now we see that there is much more potential.” – Linke
Linke expects their security system to be implemented in other communications networks too. For instance, Swedish partners in the CRITISEC project are testing methods to secure IoT devices used in energy and electricity distribution. HITEC Luxembourg also sees potential for including the new AI-based security in energy networks (e.g. for household electricity meters that connect to power plants).
Energy or telecommunications companies with big IoT networks could benefit from this unique security system in the future, and it has the potential to protect vulnerable networks in our homes, critical infrastructures and public buildings like hospitals or public transport hubs.
For HITEC Luxembourg, an unexpected result of the project collaboration has been learning new and better ways to control IoT networks. Linke adds that the project partners’ different methods “complement each other nicely, and we are now planning how to integrate them together”, meaning the research relationship between the partners has also resulted in stronger IoT networks overall.
More international, more secure
Sometimes the best combinations of expertise come from international collaborations, and this one spans halfway across the world. At an event organised for Clusters programme participants, Linke gave a presentation about the CRITISEC project idea and was immediately approached by a Taiwanese research organisation, the Institute for Information Industry (III). A department of III, the Cybersecurity Technology Institute, soon joined the CRITISEC project partners, and the resulting research is a success for IoT network security that will have commercial reach and societal benefits in both Europe and Asia.
“This is one of the big advantages of this project – to be able to exchange information between different partners from different countries, getting new ideas and solutions and making something better than if we did it alone.” – Linke
This won’t be the end of HITEC Luxembourg’s research into communications solutions; they have recently begun another project on traffic safety and 5G connections. Linke describes each of these research projects as a continuation of work, and HITEC Luxembourg recognises the need to continue providing the best communications solutions for the positive effects these have on our safety and information security.