feature article
Subscribe Now

Sequitur Security Is a Package Deal

Software Takes a Soup-to-Nuts Approach to IoT Security

“My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live.” – Kanye West

When everyone else took Spanish classes in high school, I took Latin. That prepared me for a life of translating classic literature (nope), correcting Catholic priests (not ever), deciphering legal phrases (more often than I’d like), and acing entire Jeopardy! categories (all the time).

It also taught me just enough to know that sequitur means “following in sequence,” a term most often used in the negative, as in non sequitur

The dozen souls toiling at the titular startup company outside of Seattle know that, too, which is why they chose it for their company name. In their view, Sequitur Labs’s security code is the next logical step in the process of securing embedded devices. 

Security, alas, is a never-ending struggle to out-think the bad guys. That’s hard enough on a “real” computer, where you’ve got lots of RAM, lots of CPU horsepower, lots of tools, and lots of examples (good and bad) of how it’s done. It’s harder when you’re securing unique embedded or IoT devices where there’s no one else to turn to for advice. Norton McAfee Kaspersky can’t help you with your HVAC controls, elevator controller, or security cameras. 

Security is also like screen doors on a submarine. Leave even one hatch open and the whole boat sinks. It’s not enough to plug most of the holes. Like Pokémon, you gotta get ’em all. That’s why Sequitur Labs takes a holistic approach and provides an entire package of security features rolled up into one deliverable. 

It’s not a lightweight package for 8-bit MCUs or thermostats. It requires a 32-bit processor – specifically, a Cortex A-series CPU with TrustZone – and several megabytes of RAM. But it shields devices against boot-time attacks, malware intrusions, malicious OTA updates, IP exfiltration, device-to-cloud communication, and more. 

Ah, for the old days. “You used to just be able to lock down the network and prevent malicious traffic” and your device was safe, says Sequitur CEO Philip Attfield. “Nothing was done at the device level.” Not so anymore. Now, attacks come from all angles, including from inside the house. That means there are a lot of different problems to solve. Problems that have nothing in common, apart from the fact they’re all security related. 

One key area that customers worry about is protecting their own intellectual property. With the rise of ML-enabled devices at the edge, a lot of products in consumers’ hands contain the results of original AI research and development. Vendors don’t want that IP to go walkabout. How to protect their models and algorithms from piracy, while still allowing updates, communication, and cloud connectivity? 

Sequitur Labs says its security package covers three broad areas. First, there’s the product’s design phase, which includes a secure dual-stage boot loader, memory partitioning and isolation, its own secure operating system (called CoreTEE), encryption/decryption, unique device IDs, device failover in case of a failed boot, and root of trust. (A general-purpose operating system such as Linux is assumed but is treated as insecure.) 

Second, there’s the day-to-day operating phase that encompasses antipiracy measures, authentication, over-the-air updates, firmware rollbacks, tamper detection, secure APIs, certificate and key provisioning for manufacturing, and device-to-cloud communication. 

Finally, Sequitur’s “lifecycle management” phase takes care of updates, health monitoring, enrollment, metrics, and the company’s own Device Monitor Cloud Service (available in Q4). 

Sequitur’s thorough approach to device security means it’s not invisible. You don’t just slap it on and rest easy in the knowledge that your device is now invulnerable. Programmers have to learn to work with it, a bit like learning a new RTOS with its unique function calls. Naturally, Sequitur says this is a simple process, and “it’s a lot easier than learning and implementing security protocols yourself,” says Attfield. 

The man has a point. Security is a whole new frontier for most developers. We haven’t been trained on security and, for the most part, we don’t have a clue how to develop good security measures. Even if we did have the ambition and the know-how, who has the time? Our bosses expect products to be secure, but deadlines and budgets don’t seem to expand in response. 

That makes third-party security a good bet. Like licensing an RTOS or a CPU architecture, security suites might be one of those things best left to the outside experts. Security vulnerabilities keep changing, so developing in-house countermeasures means never getting off the update treadmill. Once you start, you can never be finished, and all security leaks become your responsibility. Better to hand that headache over to someone else willing and able to accept the pain. 

 

One thought on “Sequitur Security Is a Package Deal”

  1. But how do we trust the 3rd party security company – over time?
    But DIY is heavy as Jim said: see this ETSI Security doc:
    https://bit.ly/3f8xExZ

    A Good Read for embedded guys so you’ll be ready when your bosses panic over their IoT device liabilities.

Leave a Reply

featured blogs
May 19, 2022
The current challenge in custom/mixed-signal design is to have a fast and silicon-accurate methodology. In this blog series, we are exploring the Custom IC Design Flow and Methodology stages. This... ...
May 19, 2022
Learn about the AI chip design breakthroughs and case studies discussed at SNUG Silicon Valley 2022, including autonomous PPA optimization using DSO.ai. The post Key Highlights from SNUG 2022: AI Is Fast Forwarding Chip Design appeared first on From Silicon To Software....
May 12, 2022
By Shelly Stalnaker Every year, the editors of Elektronik in Germany compile a list of the most interesting and innovative… ...
Apr 29, 2022
What do you do if someone starts waving furiously at you, seemingly delighted to see you, but you fear they are being overenthusiastic?...

featured video

Increasing Semiconductor Predictability in an Unpredictable World

Sponsored by Synopsys

SLM presents significant value-driven opportunities for assessing the reliability and resilience of silicon devices, from data gathered during design, manufacture, test, and in-field. Silicon data driven analytics provide new actionable insights to address the challenges posed to large scale silicon designs.

Learn More

featured paper

Introducing new dynamic features for exterior automotive lights with DLP® technology

Sponsored by Texas Instruments

Exterior lighting, primarily used to illuminate ground areas near the vehicle door, can now be transformed into a projection system used for both vehicle communication and unique styling features. A small lighting module that utilizes automotive-grade digital micromirror devices, such as the DLP2021-Q1 or DLP3021-Q1, can display an endless number of patterns in any color imaginable as well as communicate warnings and alerts to drivers and other vehicles.

Click to read more

featured chalk talk

Faster, More Predictable Path to Multi-Chiplet Design Closure

Sponsored by Cadence Design Systems

The challenges for 3D IC design are greater than standard chip design - but they are not insurmountable. In this episode of Chalk Talk, Amelia Dalton chats with Vinay Patwardhan from Cadence Design Systems about the variety of challenges faced by 3D IC designers today and how Cadence’s integrated, high-capacity Integrity 3D IC Platform, with its 3D design planning and implementation cockpit, flow manager and co-design capabilities will not only help you with your next 3D IC design.

Click here for more information about Integrity 3D-IC Platform from Cadence Design Systems