Securely connecting IoT devices with Real-Time Operating Systems: Interview with John Blevins, LynuxWorks

March 1, 2014 OpenSystems Media

The Internet of Things (IoT) can be a dangerous place for connected devices if security measures aren’t taken, but Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOSs) have evolved to include new networking features to better protect IoT devices. Embedded Computing Design talked with John Blevins, Director of Product Marketing at LynuxWorks about how LynxOS has grown to address IoT challenges.

Q: How has the proliferation of connected devices affected RTOS development?

The proliferation of connected devices, commonly known as the Internet of Things, is placing many new demands on embedded device manufacturers in terms of performance, security, connectivity, and complexity. Connecting these new devices to the Internet requires developers to add complex communication stacks and security software to their embedded products. This growth in software complexity increases the demand for memory and CPU resources. RTOS providers can help developers deal with their rapidly changing requirements for connected devices by providing networking stacks to aid in communication, multi-layered security features to ensure the integrity of data and the overall system, and Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) capabilities for multicore processors. The key is to provide these features while still maintaining the traditional hard real-time performance, configurability, and small footprints that are expected from a good RTOS.

Q: Given the diversity of connected devices, what types of additional RTOS features/functionality are you seeing demand for?

LynuxWorks is working hard to provide new features to our LynxOS family of RTOSs that will make it easier for embedded developers to connect their device to the Internet and add the necessary security to make sure it is not compromised. For long-haul communication we are providing TCP/IPv4, IPV6, 2G/3G/4G cellular, and WiMax networking stacks. For short-haul communication we have Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Bluetooth stacks. The most critical challenge that connected device developers are going to face is network security. Once connected to a network these devices are now subject to all the malicious attacks that traditional PCs, servers, and cell phones face daily. We have added a multi-layer security approach to our LynxOS 7 RTOS that includes features such as identification, authentication, roles, capabilities, cryptography, audit, self-test, residual information protection, quotas, and trusted path. For the ultimate security platform we can add the LynxSecure Separation Kernel and Hypervisor underneath the RTOS to provide virtualization protection and isolate specific devices from attack.

Q: How does standard Linux compare to LynxOS in tackling issues such as real-time, security, scalability, and application-specific demands?

Linux was never designed to have hard real-time deterministic performance and provides soft real-time response at best. It is difficult to scale, and, as it is maintained by the Linux community, it is subject to security holes and vulnerabilities being added for future attack. LynuxWorks provides LynxOS, a small, propriety RTOS with open-standard APIs such as POSIX, state-of-the-art communication stacks, security designed throughout the product, true scalability, and hard real-time performance. LynxOS has a Linux look and feel and provides all the traditional RTOS values that connected device developers need to produce secure, high-quality products. LynuxWorks has met the challenges for performance, communication, and security by looking closely at the challenges that the Internet of Things is uncovering and evolving our products to help developers meet those challenges. LynxOS is scalable from small sensor-level devices up to secure server-class systems and runs on Intel, PowerPC, and ARM processors.

Q: What future challenges do you see affecting RTOS design, and how do you plan to evolve the Lynx suite of products to meet those challenges?

We continue to see security, connectivity, and performance as the highest-priority issues facing developers. We will continue to address these issues in the future. For example, our separation kernel technology can now detect and protect against some of the most malicious low-level attacks such as rootkits and bootkits. The need for a multi-layered security approach is the most critical challenge that an embedded developer will face as his device is connected to the Internet for the first time. LynuxWorks will continue to provide improvements to security to aid in the protection of connected devices while preserving our traditional RTOS values of performance, scalability, and open-standard APIs.

LynuxWorks @LynuxWorks

Monique DeVoe (Managing Editor)
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