Saturday, 25 January 2014

Security and other development on the Embedded SIM

Its no surprise that GSMA has started working on Embedded SIM specifications. With M2M getting more popular every day, it would make sense to have the SIM (or UICC) embedded in them during the manufacturing process. The GSMA website states:

The GSMA’s Embedded SIM delivers a technical specification to enable the remote provisioning and management of Embedded SIMs to allow the “over the air” provisioning of an initial operator subscription and the subsequent change of subscription from one operator to another.
The Embedded SIM is a vital enabler for Machine to Machine (M2M) connections including the simple and seamless mobile connection of all types of connected vehicles. In the M2M market the SIM may not easily be changed via physical access to the device or may be used in an environment that requires a soldered connection, thus there is a need for ‘over the air’ provisioning of the SIM with the same level of security as achieved today with traditional “pluggable” SIM. It is not the intention for the Embedded SIM to replace the removable SIM currently used as the removable SIM still offers many benefits to users and operators in a number of different ways – for example, the familiarity of the form factor, easy of portability, an established ecosystem and proven security model.

The last time I talked about embedded SIM was couple of years back, after the ETSI security workshop here. Well, there was another of these workshops recently and an update to these information.

The ETSI presentation is not embedded here but is available on Slideshare here. As the slide says:

An embedded UICC is a “UICC which is not easily accessible or replaceable, is not intended to be removed or replaced in the terminal, and enables the secure changing of subscriptions” (ETSI TS 103 383)

Finally, Embedded SIM should not be confused with Soft-SIM. My last post on Soft-SIM, some couple of years back here, has over 15K views which shows how much interest is there in the soft SIM. As the slide says:

Soft or Virtual SIM is a completely different concept that does not use existing SIM hardware form factors and it raises a number of strong security issues:

  • Soft SIM would store the Operator secret credentials in software within the Mobile device operating system - the same system that is often attacked to modify the handset IMEI, perform SIM-Lock hacking and ‘jail-break’ mobile OS’s
  • Operators are very concerned about the reduction in security of their credentials through the use of Soft SIM. Any SIM approach not based on a certified hardware secure element will be subject to continual attack by the hacking community and if compromised result in a serious loss of customer confidence in the security of Operator systems
  • Multiple Soft SIM platforms carrying credentials in differing physical platforms, all requiring security certification and accreditation would become an unmanageable overhead – both in terms of resource, and proving their security in a non-standardised virtual environment

The complete GSMA presentation is as follows:

You may also like my old paper:

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