Telstra testing blockchain, biometrics to secure IoT smart home devices

September 26, 2016 - 

Telstra is testing the combined use of blockchain and biometric security on its Internet of Things (IoT) smart home products, according to a report by ZDNet.

Katherine Robins, principal security expert at Telstra, revealed that the company is performing real-world testing of the Ethereum, Apache Hyperledger, and Ripple blockchains.

Through the testing phase, Robins said she and her team questioned whether a solution could be found for devices with a small amount of storage through blockchaining IoT.

The company initially began testing its ADSL T-Gateways before expanding the testing to its line of smart home products.

“What we did is we signed the firmware, so we ran a cryptographic hash of the firmware and of the configuration, and then we monitored it against the blockchain,” Robins said at the Telstra Vantage 2016 conference in Melbourne.

“A private blockchain … gives you the ability to have that resolution time very, very short. Those of you who know anything about bitcoin knows that it can take a long time to attach something to the blockchain; it’s in excess of 10 minutes. If you’ve got a permissioned blockchain, and it’s a smaller user base, you get the ability to do it faster, and if you’re not attaching a lot of data and you’re just doing hashes, then it’s almost immediate.

“What we found is we had real-time tamper detection and tamper resistance on our environment. So we started looking at, ‘Okay, here’s my hash of the configuration’, and then I would go in and tamper with it, and see how quickly it noticed it was out of sync. It took less than a second.”

After seeing successful results with tamper-detection testing, Robins and her team extended the blockchain trial to Telstra’s IoT devices for the home, including the switches and cameras.

However, as they continued to test, the security expert became concerned about security and the lack of identity verification.

Robins and her team decided to integrate facial recognition and voice recognition, then eventually tied fingerprints to the blockchain “so that could not be tampered with.”

The integration of biometrics into the app and the blockchain testing enables users to validate their identity.

The use of blockchain improves security across IoT devices, making it more efficient and cost effective for organizations.

The IoT testing was conducted across low-power (LoRa) networks, and may potentially test across the narrowband (NB-IoT) network in the future.

In addition, Robins said Telstra is experimenting with using blockchain for legal interception, environmental sensor monitoring, car safety, agriculture, network operations, fraud, compliance and audit, and e-voting.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.