Software Updates for Internet of Things (suit)

WG Name Software Updates for Internet of Things
Acronym suit
Area Security Area (sec)
State BOF
Charter charter-ietf-suit-00-07 External review
Status Update Show update (last changed 2017-11-15)
Dependencies Document dependency graph (SVG)
Additional URLs
- Wiki
- Issue tracker
Personnel Chairs Dave Thaler
David Waltermire
Russ Housley
Area Director Kathleen Moriarty
Mailing list Address
To subscribe
Jabber chat Room address

Charter for Working Group

Vulnerabilities in Internet of Things (IoT) devices have raised the need for a secure firmware update mechanism that is also suitable for constrained devices. Security experts, researchers, and regulators recommend that all IoT devices be equipped with such a mechanism. While there are many proprietary firmware update mechanisms in use today, there is a lack of a modern interoperable approach of securely updating the firmware in IoT devices.

A firmware update solution consists of several components, including:
- A mechanism to transport firmware images to compatible devices.
- A manifest that provides meta-data about the firmware image (such as a firmware package identifier, the hardware the package needs to run, and dependencies on other firmware packages), as well as cryptographic information for protecting the firmware image in an end-to-end fashion.
- The firmware image itself.

RFC 4108 provides a manifest format that uses the Cryptographic Message Syntax (CMS) to protect firmware packages. More than ten years have passed since the publication of RFC 4108, and greater experience with IoT deployments has led to additional functionality, requiring a contemporary standardized solution to be defined.

This group will focus on defining a firmware update solution that will be usable on Class 1 (as defined in RFC 7228) devices, that is usable on devices with ~10 KiB RAM and ~100 KiB flash. The solution may apply to more capable devices as well. This group will not define any new transport or discovery mechanisms, but may describe how to use existing mechanisms within the solution.

In June of 2016 the Internet Architecture Board organized a workshop on 'Internet of Things (IoT) Software Update (IOTSU)', which took place at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The main goal of the workshop was to foster a discussion on requirements, challenges, and solutions for bringing software and firmware updates to IoT devices. This workshop also made clear that there are challenges with misaligned incentives and complex value chains. It is nevertheless seen as important to create standard building blocks that help interested parties implement and deploy a solid firmware update mechanism.

In particular this group aims to publish several documents, namely:
- An IoT firmware update architecture that includes a description of the involved entities, security threats, and assumptions.
- One or more manifest format specifications.

The initial focus of this group will be development of the contents of a manifest. Once there is general agreement on the contents, the group will pick a small number of formats (and their associated cryptographic mechanisms) to encode the manifest. A lower number of formats is preferred to reduce code size for supporting decoders on devices receiving a manifest and to maximize interoperability of solutions. To support a wide range of deployment scenarios, the formats are expected to be expressive enough to allow the use of different software sources and permission models.

This group does not aim to create a standard for a generic software update mechanism for use by rich operating systems, like Linux, but instead this group will focus on firmware development practices in the embedded industry. Software update solutions that target updating software other than the firmware binaries are also out of scope.

This group will aim to maintain a close relationship with silicon vendors and OEMs that develop IoT operating systems.


Date Milestone