The three-question interview with: Alain Merle, Head of Strategic Marketing, Security, Leti

Cybersecurity the latest IRT Nanoelec research field

Why is Cybersecurity important, and why now?

Information technology is becoming pervasive, enabling more efficient management and new services in everything from industrial systems in the energy, transportation, and telecommunications sectors to systems closer to individual users in fields like home automation and health and wellness. Cybersecurity is about making sure these systems can stand up to threats to both the electronics and IT systems; it is absolutely fundamental for these new systems and services. New vulnerabilities and breaches are reported every day.

For connected systems with physical components (IoT and cyber-physical systems), we need to take a holistic approach to security. Hackers can come from the internet (they can attack the information systems that underpin any application or cloud-based service); they can come from local interactions with the communication systems (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections and dedicated networks); and they can physically access system components (connected objects, sensors, and switches).

Security is complex and the pace of change is ultra-fast. Cryptography is an excellent means of protection—but to work it has to be implanted properly in the products and used correctly. Whatever protective measures you put in place, vulnerabilities will be discovered; you have to be able to respond quickly when this inevitably occurs.

To ensure that security has been sufficiently and effectively addressed and to earn the trust that is crucial to the widespread adoption of these technologies, you need to have independent third parties whose expertise has been confirmed to analyze and validate cybersecurity performance and issue an official, publishable, and verifiable certification.

What is at stake?

A lot of things, but mainly ensuring the long-term viability of these new technologies with all of the advances they imply, both in market terms (for stakeholders on the supply side) and for users (the demand side) wishing to take advantage of these new services; and increasing the level of user trust in these new services and infrastructures, whether those users are individuals, institutions, or industrial companies.

What makes IRT Nanoelec so well-suited to this kind of research?

IRT Nanoelec’s partners include stakeholders from the micro and nanotechnology industry and, in particular, hardware integration specialists. With a broad range of experiences that round each other out very well, we can address the entire security chain in critical areas like smart energy, smart homes, healthcare, and more. Security has to be integrated from the lowest possible microelectronic component and system levels. IRT Nanoelec provides an excellent framework—a multipartner consortium—for this kind of security initiative.