The Seven Properties of Highly Secure Devices (1st Edition)

MSR-TR-2017-16 |

Published by Microsoft

Industry largely underestimates the critical societal need to embody the highest levels of security in every network-connected device—every child’s toy, every household’s appliances, and every industry’s equipment. High development and maintenance costs have limited strong security to high-cost or high-margin devices.

Our group has begun a research agenda to bring high-value security to low-cost devices. We are especially concerned with the tens of billions of devices powered by microcontrollers. This class of devices is particularly ill-prepared for the security challenges of internet connectivity. Insufficient investments in the security needs of these and other price-sensitive devices have left consumers and society critically exposed to device security and privacy failures.

This paper makes two contributions to the field of device security. First, we identify seven properties we assert are required in all highly secure devices. Second, we describe our experiment working with a silicon partner to revise one of their microcontrollers to create a prototype, highly secure microcontroller.

Our experimental results suggest that in the near future even the most price-sensitive devices should be redesigned to achieve the high levels of device security critical to society’s safety. While our first experimental results are promising, more ongoing research remains and we seek to enlist the broader security community in a dialog on device security.

Note: This 1st Edition (MSR-TR-2017-16) has been replaced with an enhanced and expanded 2nd Edition (MSR-TR-2020-41).