Known Devices for Strong Authentication

Authentication at the application level suffers from dependency on operating systems and other software vulnerable to common malware exploits. A stronger approach involves the use of hardware roots-of-trust using a chain of cascaded assurance from the hardware to the specific interaction with an entity being asked to validate their identity. Trusted platform modules (TPMs) are useful resources for this type of approach.

Rivetz has been one of the great innovators in this area, developing solutions for smart phones, tablets, PCs, and other devices to be more “known” with high assurance, rather than to serve as lower assurance platforms for less secure authentication protocols. We recently asked Steven Sprague, CEO of Rivetz, to offer his ideas and views on this approach, and to help us understand where authentication of known devices is headed.

EA: What is meant by known versus unknown devices?

SS: A known device is a device that has identity and has been measured. In general, it is hard to measure the whole operating system to trusted computing, and the global community has defined standards for the Trusted Execution Environment (TEE). The TEE is a measured environment running measured code that can easily store and process keys and messages/instructions. An unknown device would be the PC you have today that is on the network and you have logged into. But the computer processing and sending your data could be controlled by an advanced persistent threat and be feeding you false information that you believe is correct, or it could intercept and alter the data you are sending.

EA: What role does hardware play in the high assurance process your team supports?

SS: Hardware is required because it can provide an immutable root of trust. Hardware can hold data that cannot be altered by software and that root of trust can be used to build a measured execution environment. Today, Rivetz uses TEE, which is built on the hardware foundations of ARM TrustZone architecture. As the platforms and technologies evolve, Rivetz intends to support them all.

EA: How does the Rivetz platform work? What types of devices do you support?

SS: Rivetz is built on the ARM Trustzone capabilities and we have partnered with a company called Trustonic who provides the TEE OS we use to enable the hardware. This technology has been deployed on more than 1.4 billion devices to date. Rivetz’s focus is the major Android providers such as Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony, ZTE.

EA: Do you see authentication evolving in the coming years along the lines of what you’ve been doing?

SS: Yes. Authentication is no longer enough. What is required for blockchain and IoT is secure instructions or messages. The messages contain the transactional information that will be delivered across the public networks and process within the devices. Secure instructions are the foundations of payment as well – many of the core technologies were developed to enable secure banking and e-commerce.

EA: What are some trust- and assurance-related trends you’re seeing in your customer base?

SS: The world is moving in the direction of greater privacy and greater decentralization. The shift from an enterprise having cybersecurity controls that are applied to all things at all times is over. The security model is moving to the endpoint. Trusted computing enables a decentralized software-defined security model that results in provable controls embedded within every transaction. The mixing of trusted computing and blockchain technology will enable the global evidence-driven model that is needed for GDPR, privacy and blockchain.

EA: You've said that blockchain needs Rivetz. Can you explain?

SS: Blockchain is a new model for storing a fact on the internet. The ability for data to be proven has not changed. Rivetz is building the tools to embed within the blockchain the evidence that the data recorded on the chain was what was intended. The tools will provide proof that a measured device in a known condition wrote the instruction to the chain. This evidence can easily be stored with every transaction as a second hash or signature. We’re delivering strong, provable cybersecurity controls as part of every chain. A new model is emerging – a model that is built on the foundations of identity and not connections. The heart of the new networking and service delivery model is not the identity of the user, but rather the identity of the device. All information-sharing, and all secure transactions, must be done from known devices in a known condition. The Rivetz solution provides a strong first step in the direction and can be easily be used to define new models for decentralized security.