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Improving efficiency and security of IIoT communications using in-network validation of server certificate

Atutxa A., Astorga J., Barcelo M., Urbieta A., Jacob E.

Computers in Industry


The use of advanced communications and smart mechanisms in industry is growing rapidly, making cybersecurity a critical aspect. Currently, most industrial communication protocols rely on the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol to build their secure version, providing confidentiality, integrity and authentication. In the case of UDP-based communications, frequently used in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) scenarios, the counterpart of TLS is Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS), which includes some mechanisms to deal with the high unreliability of the transport layer. However, the (D)TLS handshake is a heavy process, specially for resource-deprived IIoT devices and frequently, security is sacrificed in favour of performance. More specifically, the validation of digital certificates is an expensive process from the time and resource consumption point of view. For this reason, digital certificates are not always properly validated by IIoT devices, including the verification of their revocation status; and when it is done, it introduces an important delay in the communications. In this context, this paper presents the design and implementation of an in-network server certificate validation system that offloads this task from the constrained IIoT devices to a resource-richer network element, leveraging data plane programming (DPP). This approach enhances security as it guarantees that a comprehensive server certificate verification is always performed. Additionally, it increases performance as resource-expensive tasks are moved from IIoT devices to a resource-richer network element. Results show that the proposed solution reduces DTLS handshake times by 50–60 %. Furthermore, CPU use in IIoT devices is also reduced, resulting in an energy saving of about 40 % in such devices.

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