The dark IoT devices, including smart devices in the home and workplace as well as industrial equipment, are powered by microcontroller units (MCUs). Every year, 9 billion MCU devices are shipped worldwide, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) says.
"The MCU devices are the dark matter of the computing universe," Galen Hunt, Microsoft distinguished engineer, and partner group program manager, Azure Sphere, said in an interview at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Fla., last week. "They outnumber everything else ten to one and they haven't been connected until now." Microsoft estimates there will be 20 billion MCU devices deployed by 2020, and 80 billion by 2025, Sam Hunt, Microsoft director of Azure IoT, said.
He added, "If the devices don't have security, they're an open playfield for hackers, and with MCU devices it's particularly concerning because they actually control physical things in your environment."
And often these devices are unsecured, simply because manufacturers found it impossible to build in security at IoT's low price point.
Additionally, many of these devices have not been secured because the risk was perceived as low -- which it was, before the devices were connected. For example, a Las Vegas casino was hacked through a fish tank thermometer. Hackers attacked through a vulnerability in the thermometer, which gave them a foothold on the network and access to the casino's high roller database, Hunt said. "You say, that's a fish tank thermometer -- why does it need to be secure? It's network connected."
Microsoft is looking to mitigate the problem with Azure Sphere, a combination of hardware, software and services to help manufacturers build secure IoT devices. Azure Sphere MCU hardware and the Azure Sphere OS incorporate built-in security, and Azure Sphere Security Service provides ongoing protection. (See Microsoft Flexes Muscles on AI, IoT & Security.)
Last week, Microsoft launched tools to let developers start prototyping new products and services with Azure Sphere, specifically developer kits, and public previews of Azure Sphere OS, Azure Sphere Security Service and Visual Studio development tools.
Also, Microsoft announced last week that it is integrating IoT security into Azure Security Center, giving security pros a single pane of glass from which to manage security on a suite of Azure services, including IoT.
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— Mitch Wagner Executive Editor, Light Reading