5 Key Architectural Considerations on Implementing Identity and Access Management for M2M

Identity and access management have traditionally been used to manage the identity and credentials assigned to human users.  Machine to machine devices such as Smart Metering GPRS enabled electricity meters or SIM cards in cars require their own identity and access management capabilities. These include new M2M authentication schemes because traditional authentication schemes always assume the presence of a person. This means that most authentication technologies cannot be applied in machine-centric M2M context. Following from this the following are five keys authentication and authorisation challenges posed by a non-human orientated identity and access management system.

1. M2M Security and Authorisation:

With human user password based security has specific known issues but the secure credentials remain with the individual. With M2M access management it cannot be assumed that a given M2M module assigned to an individual or a system always remains a valid and true association. M2M devices can be lost, stolen, replicated, decrypted and hacked by both well-intentioned or malicious entities. As with BYOD the identity of the M2M must be continually validated using higher levels of encryption & signature that reflect the passive state of M2M devices.

2. Directory Services for M2M:

The increase in M2M services means that the number of non-human identities is growing. This increase requires a directory of all non-human identities which can be both organisationally managed or externally managed. As with the M2M Authorisation challenge a record is required for each individual M2M module.

3. Role and Attribute Management:

M2M device identity management must include roles & attributes that encapsulate its use. This may include the end-user, the service provider, the related services, the available resources, the module’s location, the module’s potential roaming allowance and other usage based attributes. Furthermore, the M2M device may require authorisation according to the data off-load technology such as when switching from GPRS to Near Field Communication data off-load.

4. Module Provisioning:

Individual M2M modules may be assigned to a collective M2M ecosystem and/or a family / person.  Any provisioning operation would require a presumably remote M2M module to be activated as either a standalone item (e.g. single meter system) or as part of a group of items (e.g. collective security systems). Identity provisioning rules that are extensible are critical to ensure both management and maintenance of M2M devices across the ecosystem.

5. Security Updates and Control:
Making changes to M2M modules depends upon the network architecture (GPRS, wired, wireless, NFC etc) but to provide ecosystem security (e.g. security patches) it must be possible to make real-time and near real-time control changes to M2M modules when vulnerabilities and anomalies are detected. Traditional human identity and access management systems can more easily protect against cyber-attack threats by bulky applying patches. With passive authentication systems such as in certain smart meter technology it is not always possible to make an upgrade and there is always the risk that individual modules with an ecosystem can become contaminated. Therefore any architecture must work with an isolating mechanism for quarantining modules and their data.


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