March 5

Azure Sphere

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IOT has been a huge hit in the tech industry for a couple of years now, but what’s mostly blocking the growth is lack of security among devices and attacks that can be fatal.

Let’s talk about a smart refrigerator. The great experience is that the smart refrigerator monitors your maintenance, keeps your device running well but imagine you come home one day and you have a text message on your phone which says we own your fridge, pay us five dollars in bit coin or all the ice cream melts. Unhappy kids! Your fridge is no longer your own. And what about a smart stove that can be blown up by a terrorist hacker.

Microsoft is providing a service to raise the bar of security in our interconnected world of technology. Microsoft is putting a mark out there that following are the minimum set of properties that any connected device should have.

Azure Sphere is a new generation of micro-controller with built-in security. Microsoft developed an operating system for it, based on Linux. Goal is to develop a new generation of Internet of things, IOT. Those will be able to communicate with cloud services securely. Every smart device, like your toy, fridge, washing machine, all will secure under cloud computing system.

Microsoft Azure Sphere is a new solution for creating highly secured internet connected micro controller devices. Azure sphere is all about end-to-end IOT security. It’s an end-to-end platform to secure everyday IOT devices.

It’s not just about the piece of hardware; a little tiny device, there is a lot more behind it. It’s about taking all Microsoft’s experience in building secure hardware platforms and blending it with Microsoft’s experience of building operating systems and cloud platforms.

Azure sphere has three main pillars:

1. Secured MCU

Let’s start with micro-controller. When I think about a micro-controller, I think about the word pervasive computing. Micro-controllers are everywhere; in your home, in your office, in your hotel. They make up the fabric of computing that you can never see. It has a screen, it has a button, and it has a micro controller in it. There are nine billion micro controllers sold every year. It’s a massive number and it’s a whole ecosystem that a lot of people just aren’t even familiar with. But the interesting fact is that less than 1% micro controllers are connected today. Why is that? Because when you connect devices, bammm! Spams and viruses everywhere! As we saw in 2016, Mirai botnet. It brought US to its knees. Roughly 100,000 compromised IOT devices were repurposed by the hackers into a botnet that effectively knocked US.

Azure Sphere MCUs meets the minimum requirement laid out by Microsoft and they have security IP. Microsoft is licensing free to any silicon manufacturer that wants to produce an azure sphere certified chip.

2. Secured OS

Microsoft has created an operating system with the Linux kernel in order to achieve their highly secured OS they have been bragging about. It’s called Azure Sphere OS. Sphere OS is just one of three part solutions of Microsoft azure sphere. This operating system is created by Microsoft and maintained by Microsoft. The Azure Sphere OS, a highly secured OS from Microsoft, creates a trustworthy defense and depth platform for wide experiences. A custom Linux Kernel enables Silicon diversity and innovation.

  • Secured application container
  • On-ship cloud services
  • Security Pico visor

3. Cloud Security 

Security service is what brokers trust between device to device and device to cloud interaction. Azure Sphere provides:

  • Software updates
  • Detection of emerging threats
  • Certificate-based brokering of trust

Their goal is really to enable us to create internet of things devices fast and ready for production purposes. So, we don’t have to worry about security and can focus on profits.

I support what Microsoft is doing here; not only using the Linux kernel to build their new operating system but also to create a secure and powerful operating system to control IOT devices.

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About the Author

Farwah Aslam: Your routine healthcare physician and a technology enthusiast.

Farwah Aslam

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