Jeremy Hitchcock

Managed and unmanaged devices, a continuum to come

We recently participated in a Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) IoT working group discussing IoT security and the concept of managed and unmanaged IoT devices. Providers today put equipment in the home, taking full responsibility and authority for the management of these devices. Last year, consumers bought $273B worth of IoT devices which they expect to be plug-and-play. When consumers ultimately encounter problems with their IoT devices, who do they call? In most cases, they call their service providers, who are not equipped with tools for managing those personally-purchased IoT devices.

smart-speaker-in-living-room

The need for a shared environment that empowers both the service provider and the consumer

What providers lack is telemetry, configuration, and the ability to test if the IoT device is working or not. This creates a need for a shared environment where both providers and consumers share the management of a particular device. This will enhance the security and overall functionality of the home network, which is our ultimate goal.

You can imagine there being different devices on a home network that are also completely different in how they are purchased, managed, supported, and operated. This proposes the notion that we can categorize home network devices in the following ways:

Managed devices

These are devices that are completely controlled by the service provider with no control by the consumer. An example is a cable modem or fiber modem where the configuration is completely controlled by the service provider.

Unmanaged devices

These are devices that are completely controlled by the consumer with little to no visibility by the service provider. An example is an IoT device like a smart thermostat, which the consumer purchases and sets up on their own.

Shared devices

This is our proposed class of devices whose management is shared. Consumers are able to use these devices and they are supported by the service provider. An example is Minim-enabled routers, which are shared by the service provider and the consumer.

The important attributes of a shared environment

In terms of "permissions", we can think of six separate attributes that are important to have in a shared environment:

  1. View telemetry— The ability to see any data or metadata about the operating device, which is the level that Minim sees on the network.
  2. Operate device— The ability to operate a device, which is the normal mode you would expect to need to see a video camera stream or to operate a doorbell.
  3. Read configuration— The ability to read the configuration data to learn about how the device is setup.
  4. Configure device— The ability to change how a device operates.
  5. Change firmware (over the air updates)— The ability to trigger a software update that changes the firmware of a device, which due to it's sensitive nature, is a highly privileged ability. (All devices should eventually auto-update.)
  6. Factory reset device— The ability to hard reset a device, thus resetting the software and device configuration and ultimately re-owning the device to a new owner.

The discussion of managed and unmanaged IoT devices continues

The role of managed and unmanaged IoT devices is an active area of research by the SCTE, who have been studying this area for the past year. And next month, the SCTE will be presenting an update on their research at the CableTec Expo 2018 in Atlanta, GA. Minim will definitely be in attendance, and we hope to see you there!

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