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Security remains top concern in embedded Linux

March 27, 2015

rick.merritt-March 27, 2015

Linux is expanding its reach, promising to play a significant role in the Internet of Things. But the open source software needs more attention to interoperability, security and its kernel, according to experts at the Embedded Linux Conference here.

Industry giants including Samsung and Panasonic are expanding new open source groups. Jaguar Land Rover came to the event saying it will make open source its connected car software, challenging competitors to do the same.

In IoT, Linux commands the gateway today, with ambitious efforts to pack it into end nodes. It already runs on microcontrollers, with some developers aiming at a Mbyte-size version of the open source operating system, one speaker said.

Intel is working on subsets of Tizen for IoT. “Today its still extremely challenging to run Linux on less than 8 Mbytes of memory…[so in IoT] we don’t know where the compromises are yet,” said Dominique Le Foll, a Linux expert at Intel.

Application protocols such as AllSeen aim to unify the space, running across operating systems and protocols in as little as 256 Kbytes of flash, said Greg Burns, chair of the AllSeen Alliance and the originator of the technology at Qualcomm’s connected devices group. “Linux is not in that [small code size] space by an order of magnitude,” Burns said.

As Linux squeezes down, security remains a top concern.

“We are miles away from where we should be [in security] in the embedded world,” said Le Foll. "We have the tools but people only understand them a little -- and they don’t want to use them,” he said.

“There’s a huge amount of effort going into security, but one study said 75% of IoT products have gaping security holes,” said Bryant Eastham, a principal software architect in Panasonic’s new open source effort. “You have people checking master keys into Github -- no amount of security we put in can take care of that kind of security flop,” he said.

Continue reading the next page on Embedded's sister site, EE Times: "Linux seeks security, unity."


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