The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) says it will contribute its expertise in IoT and blockchain security to the NSW Cyber Security Network, announced last week by the state minister for finance, services and property, Victor Dominello.

Dominello announced a $2 million investment in a new university-led network that he said would bolster NSW’s cyber security research and development capability and harness the state’s growing cyber security industry.

He said the network would bring together scientists and engineers from seven of the state’s universities — UNSW, Macquarie, Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle, UTS and Western Sydney University — to protect government, industry and individuals against cyber attacks. The network would also identify solutions to emerging cyber security challenges, train specialist graduates and develop a skilled cyber security workforce, and provide industry with strategic and operational advice on cyber security threats, he said.

Professor Michael Blumenstein, associate dean (research strategy and management) and head of the School of Software in the UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT, said the university had developed IoT and blockchain technologies to protect and promote Australian industry, for example, to ensure secure and trusted tracking and traceability along the export supply chain.

Growing interest in blockchain for IoT security

There is growing interest in the use of blockchain to address the pressing challenge of securing IoT devices and networks. IDC in its 2018 IoT Predictions forecast that, by 2020, some 10 percent of pilot and production blockchain ledgers would be used for IoT.

Forrester Research, in its TechRadar report Internet of Things Security, 2017 includes blockchain in its list of 13 technologies that it has identified as the most relevant and important technologies for delivering IoT security.

At Telstra’s Vantage industry forum in Melbourne in September 20126, Katherine Robins, principal security expert at Telstra, revealed that Telstra was investigating how it could apply blockchain to increase the security of its smart home devices.

The use of blockchain for IoT security is also garnering industry support. The Trusted IoT Alliance was launched in September 2017 with the specific aim “to bring companies together to develop and set the standard for an open source blockchain protocol to support IoT technology in major industries worldwide.”

It now has more than 30 members working towards achieving its stated goal: “the creation of a trusted IoT ecosystem that links cryptographic and registrant identities, along with metadata, to give objects the equivalent of digital, transferable ‘birth certificates’ that can be inventoried and managed across blockchain networks.”

Creating a tamper-proof network

Startups are also emerging to exploit the potential of blockchain in IoT security.

Xage, claiming to be “the first and only blockchain-protected security platform for the Industrial Internet of Things”, emerged in Palo Alto in December 2017 after 18 months in stealth mode.

The startup says it “distributes authentication and private data across the network of devices, creating a tamper-proof  ‘fabric’ for communication, authentication and trust that ensures security at scale.”

Xage’s focus is very much on the industrial Internet, which as it notes, will rely heavily on a legacy of operational technology using a variety of devices and protocols that are challenging to secure as these once isolated industrial systems become integrated with mainstream IT and exposed to the global Internet.

The company says it will deliver its security services on Dell IoT gateways and the Dell EdgeX platform for the energy-production industry. (Dell’s OEM division has a strong focus on operational technology and industrial IoT applications).

The use of blockchain for security in industrial IoT applications is also the focus of the, appropriately named Blockchain of Things. It claims to have “the ultimate blockchain technology for securing the IoT, enabling smart assets and unleashing intelligent contracts.”