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Prioritizing Security: Global Telecom’s Central Emphasis in Cellular IoT Modules

Security threats facing cellular devices are myriad. Although security analysts predominantly concentrate on chip and device-level vulnerabilities, there has been a noteworthy surge in infiltration attempts targeting cellular modules. These modules are integral components found in various devices, ranging from mobile phones to connected cars and the connected gas and electric meters installed in tens of millions of homes. In the ever-expanding realm of “smart homes” and “smart factories,” how we approach, stay vigilant, and address security threats becomes a pivotal concern.

What is a cellular IoT module?

At its core, a cellular IoT module is a marvel of miniaturization, a compact powerhouse designed to enable wireless communication over cellular networks. The module contains 100’ of components and many chipsets. The module is packaged and designed to interface with the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) in standard form factor such as M.2, LPWA, and LGA. The module is then certified with multiple authorities, including PTCRB, GCF, FCC, and end carriers (T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, U.S. Cellular, Vodafone, Orange, and many others). This device bridges the physical and digital realms, translating the binary language of data into electromagnetic waves and seamlessly transitioning these waves between towers until they reach their destination. Whether sending a text message, making a call, or streaming the latest viral video, the cellular module is the unsung hero, making it all possible.

What does a cellular IoT module do?

A cellular IoT module’s primary mission is to facilitate communication between devices and the internet, enabling them to share information, gather data, and operate intelligently in an interconnected environment.
They are designed to accommodate a range of connectivity options; they can operate on various cellular networks, adapting to the specific requirements of different applications. Here are some examples of cellular IoT usage across different sectors:

  1. Users employ Cellular IoT modules for environmental monitoring applications such as air quality monitoring, water quality monitoring, and wildlife tracking.
  2. Security and Surveillance: Cellular IoT modules contribute to deploying security and surveillance systems by providing remote connectivity for cameras, sensors, and alarms.
  3. Connected Vehicles: In the automotive industry, Cellular IoT modules play a crucial role in connected car applications, enabling features such as remote diagnostics, vehicle tracking, and in-car connectivity.
  4. Remote Infrastructure Monitoring: Cellular modems in sensors on infrastructure components help monitor structural health. This is crucial for early detection of issues and preventive maintenance.
  5. Smart grids, utility meters: Cellular modems in smart meters enable utility companies to monitor energy consumption remotely. This facilitates efficient energy management and provides customers with detailed usage information.

Security and the main threats that stem from module manufacturing

Modules are the brain of the IoT and the key to device security. It is a common misconception that, for example, if a chipset vendor is trusted, then the module must be as well. But as our experience suggests, this is not really the case. The module assembles the chip, additional hardware, and software to create the end device. For example, take barebones chipsets from the chipset producers and add software and hardware to CatM/NB, Cat1, Cat4, Cat12, 5G, and other categories of modules. A comprehensive list of our products can be found on Global Telecom Website. Imagine that the chip is secure, but the additional hardware, firmware, and software that connects that chip and makes it part of the end device (the module) are vulnerable to hacking and unauthorized intrusion. That would result in the entire network being compromised because the security of a network is as strong as its weakest link.

Several of the main threats associated with module manufacturing include:

  1. Supply Chain Attacks: Security vulnerabilities can be introduced during the supply chain process, including the manufacturing, components, Circuit board assembly, or distribution phases. Malicious actors may implant backdoors, malware, hardware, or other exploits, leading to compromised security and functionality of the modules.
  2. Hardware Tampering: Unauthorized modification of module hardware during manufacturing or distribution. Tampering can introduce vulnerabilities or create opportunities for attackers to compromise the module’s security, leading to unauthorized access or data manipulation.
  3. Insecure Firmware: Attackers may exploit vulnerabilities in firmware to gain unauthorized access, execute malicious code, or manipulate the module’s behavior
  4. Weak Authentication and Authorization: Weak authentication allows unauthorized entities to access the module, potentially leading to data breaches, device manipulation, or service disruption.

Global Telecom’s comprehensive and proactive approach to safeguarding its products

Addressing security threats requires a comprehensive approach, including secure design principles, rigorous testing, supply chain security measures, and ongoing monitoring and updates to mitigate vulnerabilities. Modules act as digital guardians, safeguarding the integrity and confidentiality of the data exchanged between devices, assuring users that their information remains protected in the vast expanse of the IoT.
Global Telecom holds multiple U.S. Patents covering driverless and hostless wireless modules, and the market has rewarded our strategy. It’s commendable that we are committed to profitable growth with partners and improving security and global supply chain integrity.

Here are some specific actions and practices that align with Global Telecom’s commitment:

  1. Advanced development in quantum cryptography: Ensuring secure and trusted connectivity in the IoT landscape is critical. It must include advanced development in quantum cryptography, aiming to significantly reduce hackers’ ability to exploit IoT devices for unauthorized access. We are developing a Quantum Cryptography Engine (QCE), slated for in-the-field testing and poised to serve as a true Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG). Incorporating post-quantum computing resistance must be at the forefront of cybersecurity measures, emphasizing its dedication to providing essential and robust security solutions.
  2. Incident Response Planning: Work collaboratively on incident response planning with partners to ensure a coordinated and effective response in the event of security incidents. We establish clear communication channels for incident reporting and resolution for our customers.
  3. Supply Chain Security Audits: We ensure that suppliers and partners meet specified security standards and compliance requirements. We regularly audit and assess the security practices within the supply chain, including vendors and third-party partners.
  4. Continuous Monitoring: We implement continuous monitoring of the supply chain to detect and respond to security threats in real-time.
  5. Vendor Risk Management: We regularly review and update risk assessments based on changes in the business environment and threat landscape.
  6. Secure Product Development: We implement secure development practices in collaboration with partners to ensure security is embedded throughout the product development lifecycle.
  7. Regulatory Compliance: We stay abreast of relevant cybersecurity regulations and standards impacting our industry. At the same time, we collaborate with partners to ensure joint compliance with applicable 3regulations.
  8. Security Training and Awareness: We share relevant threat intelligence and best practices to enhance the collective security knowledge.

By integrating these practices, Global Telecom effectively balances growth and security considerations. This approach not only safeguards your organization but also contributes to the overall resilience and integrity of the global supply chain.

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