Microsoft introduces Azure Sphere to secure IoT devices with chips and Linux
Microsoft yesterday announced a Linux-based operating system called Azure Sphere, an ARM-based platform for the Internet of Things (IoT) with a focus on security, at the RSA 2018 security conference. The main purpose of creating Azure Sphere is to secure millions of microcontroller-based devices that come online as part of the IoT.
Azure Sphere mainly contains three components that work together to protect and power devices at the intelligent edge: certified microcontrollers (MCUs), the Azure Sphere Security Service – a cloud-based security service – for connecting and security IoT devices, and Azure Sphere OS – a custom Linux-based operating system, which marks the first time Microsoft has basically launched its own Linux distribution.
Microsoft says the goal is to be able to offer “security protection for a 10-year lifetime of the device.”
The announcement was made on Microsoft’s Azure blog that can be read here and a description of each new component is given below:
- Azure Sphere certified microcontrollers (MCUs): A new cross-over class of MCUs that combines both real-time and application processors with built-in Microsoft security technology and connectivity. Each chip includes custom silicon security technology from Microsoft, inspired by 15 years of experience and learnings from Xbox, to secure this new class of MCUs and the devices they power.
- Azure Sphere OS: This OS is purpose-built to offer unequalled security and agility. Unlike the RTOSes common to MCUs today, our defense-in-depth IoT OS offers multiple layers of security. It combines security innovations pioneered in Windows, a security monitor, and a custom Linux kernel to create a highly-secured software environment and a trustworthy platform for new IoT experiences.
- Azure Sphere Security Service: A turnkey, cloud service that guards every Azure Sphere device; brokering trust for device-to-device and device-to-cloud communication through certificate-based authentication, detecting emerging security threats across the entire Azure Sphere ecosystem through online failure reporting, and renewing security through software updates. It brings the rigor and scale Microsoft has built over decades protecting our own devices and data in the cloud to MCU powered devices.
Azure Sphere Security Service will be compatible not only with Azure, but also with other cloud infrastructure providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, IBM, Oracle, and others, says Microsoft chief financial officer Brad Smith.
“There are going to be 9 billion of these MCU-based devices shipped this year,” he said.
“They’ll be in the toys of our children, in our kitchens, our refrigerators, in every room in our house…that infrastructure will only be as secure as the weakest link.
“We’re a Windows company, but what we recognized is that the best solution for a computer of this size in a toy is not a full-blown version of Windows. It’s a custom Linux Kernel,” Smith said. “It’s an important step for us and the industry.”
Currently, Azure Sphere is in private preview and the first batch of Azure Sphere-powered devices is expected to be “on shelves” by the end of calendar 2018, Microsoft official said. The dev kits will arrive in the middle of the calendar year.
Microsoft has also created a video to showcase the new microcontrollers and the security they offer:
To learn more about Azure Sphere, you can visit the Azure Sphere website.
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