Identifying and Authenticating Internet of Things (IoT) Objects

by Arthur Rowley

Explore what identifying and authenticating IoT (Internet of Things) is all about. This article discusses schemes available for IoT identification and authentication in depth. You will also get to know why it is essential to carry out both processes.

IoT refers to technology known as the Internet of Things. It is a transformative and beneficial technology that numerous industries adapt. In simple terms, IoT is a digital network of items and objects connected through the internet. Essentially, the Internet of Things is not just an online activity but a cloud that connects actual physical items. These items usually have sensors and software tailored to exchange information and connectivity via an internet connection with other devices. It is one of the reasons many refer to IoT as smart technology.

A simple example of IoT is your smartphone. Over the years, it has become possible to connect multiple gadgets to the smartphone. Appliances and devices like televisions, fridges, lights, sound systems, alarms, and thermostats can be connected and controlled using associated devices.

IoT facilitates robust machine-to-machine communication eradicating the need for human intervention. The technology continues to transform numerous industries, including online gambling, making fun games like the release the Kraken more accessible through mobile-friendly casinos. Below, however, we will not be talking about the industries that adapt the Internet of Things. Instead, we will comprehensively look into identifying and authenticating IoT objects.

What is Identification and Authentication in IoT

Identifying and authenticating the IoT refers to ways in which you can securely access all connected devices. Authentication is crucial so that you can be certain IoT devices are what they claim to be. The devices need to have IoT device identification that can be authenticated when connecting to a gateway or server. It enables IT administrators to track the devices and communicate with them through their lifecycle to prevent harmful activities. When this happens, administrators can remove privileges from any object that starts to show strange behavior. With this in mind, let’s individually look at IoT identification and authentication.

What is IoT Identification?

Identification is the first requirement of the IoT protocol. It is considered proof of identity of all the objects in the IoT world. Identity is a key factor in creating connections or relationships, and it’s critical for the success of the IoT system. It facilitates the identification of billions of heterogeneous objects while using the internet to manage remote objects.

Identification also links devices to information associated with a specific object that can be retried from a server. The process enables objects to communicate with other objects via the internet either in the same or different scopes. Various IoT identification methods have been proposed over the years, including but not limited to:

  • Identification Using Fingerprints- Object/device fingerprinting is the process of collecting object or device information to describe it. The primary aim of fingerprinting is to extract different kinds of information such as operating systems, software, and hardware components. This type of technology implements individual recognition and authentication.
  • Identification Through Computer Vision- Computer vision describes a scientific field that makes a computer understand videos or images. Artificial systems, in this instance, are used to extract information from videos and images. Computer vision methods offer various IoT solutions that solve real-world problems. These methods are computer-human interaction, identification, detecting events, object detection, recognition, tracking, and classification.
  • Identification Using Machine Learning Methods- ML (machine learning) is extensively used for different tasks like classification, density estimations, and regression, etc. Various ML algorithms can be implemented in IoT tasks to make them more scalable and efficient.

When talking about IoT identification, it also helps to discuss the Internet of Things identity management. It aims to build and manage confidence in a machine’s identity that interacts with other applications, devices, gateways, and clouds. It may include the authentication and authorization of devices that use an IoT network:

  • Connected medical devices
  • Industrial control systems
  • Security cameras
  • Vehicle Engine Control Units
  • Mobile devices
  • Smart lights, speakers, outlets, and other equipment
  • Home security systems

IoT Authentication

IoT authentication refers to a model that is used to foster trust regarding the identification of IoT objects. It primarily happens not only to protect data but to regulate and limit access when details travel via an unsecured network such as the Internet. Strong IoT authentication is critical, especially when it comes to unauthorized users or devices gaining illegal access to any connected IoT machines and devices. Additionally, authentication also helps to prevent attacks from objects masquerading as Internet of Things devices. With authenticating, devices that are not connected on the network cannot access any data stored on servers such as images, recorded information, and other sensitive details. IoT authentication helps devices to prove their unique identities to servers. IoT in 2021 presents three main standard authentication methods, i.e:

  1. Password-based authenticationthe authentication is based on a default password for all IoT objects. In case a user forgets, they can find the default passwords on the internet. It is advisable to set unique passwords to avoid hackers from accessing the passwords.
  2. Certificate-based authentication- the method uses a digital certificate to identify IoT objects. The certificates are signed data structures that bind IoT objects to their public key. The technique depends on asymmetric cryptography to generate a private-public key pair for the devices.
  3. Symmetric key authentication– The method demands establishing a shared secret key between the cloud and the device. It means that the key has to be protected on two fronts.

Several methods are used to achieve strong IoT authentication, including:

  • 1-Way Authentication: if two parties want to communicate, it is a set requirement that one of the parties authenticates itself before the communication happens.
  • 2-Way Authentication: the complete opposite of one-way authentication, both entities are part of the authentication process.
  • 3-Way Authentication: with this model, neither of the parties does authentication. Instead, a central authority is in charge of helping both parties with authentication.
  • Centralized Authentication: uses a trusted 3rd party or centralized server to allot and oversee authentication certificates that will be in use.
  • Distributed Authentication: The method uses a distributed straight authentication between the parties to the communication.

When handling any IoT project, it’s crucial to select the suitable IoT authentication model to block any communication attempts from unauthorized servers. Before choosing the ideal model, factors to consider include budget, hardware capacity, energy resources, security requirements, connectivity, and security expertise.  Examples of IoT authentication models to select from include:

  1. X.509 Certificates- it is a protocol that offers one of the most reliable and secure options for digital identity authentication. It is also  one of the best ways to enhance production and make the delivery of equipment simpler. Keep in mind that all digital certificates will come in the form of a certificate chain. All the certificates normally posses an individual private key that act as its signature. Each chain has a root certificate that is trusted worldwide.
  2. HSM (Hardware Security Module)- the security model primarily works on hardware-based IoT objects. HSM is a well- known module for securing secret storage. HSMs blends effectively with double attestation mechanisms that the provisioning service supports.
  3. Trusted Platform Module (TPM)- Regarding IoT authentication deployments, it is crucial to look into the identity of Internet of Things objects/ devices that communicate with messaging gateway. You mostly achieve this by generating key pairs for the objects. These keys are then used to encrypt and authenticate traffic. Hardware that is tamper-resistant makes great key storage for this type of module. One of the factors that boosts security  is if anyone rolls the key, its identity will automatically be destroyed. As a result, a new one will be developed.  TPM offers multiple forms, including:
    • Implementation of firmware
    • Embedded hardware equipment
    • Discreet hardware devices
    • Implementation of software
    • Implementation of firmware

TPM provides three key features that are relevant to IoT authentication. One is secure boot-up. The other two are identification of the device and establishing RoT (root of trust).

  1. Symmetric Keys- Certification using symmetric keys is one of the less sophisticated methods of authenticating IoT devices. The key player here is a provisioning service instance. Anyone dealing with legacy devices that have a few security features needs to consider this model.

They are ideal for developers who are not working with strict safety requirements.

Key attestation using the symmetric model happens with a similar security token that IoT hubs support to identify devices. The tokens are Shared Access Signature (SAS) tokens.


IoT security is one of the areas where identification and authentication play a huge role. It is because it helps to protect your devices from commands made by unauthorized users. It also helps to protect personal data from various cyberattacks.  Keep in mind that IoT architecture is not one technology. It is a connected environment that features multiple machines. The best part about this is that the devices work perfectly without interference from humans.

The goal of authentication is to establish the identity of each endpoint in the system. Every IoT device needs an explicit digital identity that can be checked when connecting to a gateway or central server. The endgame is to eliminate and prevent any malicious attack risks.

We would love to continue the conversation about the identification and authentication of IoT objects. What other options do you know that can secure IoT objects effectively? Let us know in the comment section below.

Author’s Bio:

Arthur Rowley is an avid writer specializing mostly in technology and marketing. Having spent years finessing his craft, he now can ensure you that Arthur has much acclaim for these areas and dedication to providing high-quality blogging content.


About the Author:

I am a cybersecurity and IT instructor, cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. I am an owner of the WyzCo Group Inc. In addition to consulting on security products and services, I also conduct security audits, compliance audits, vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. I also teach Cybersecurity Awareness Training classes. I work as an information technology and cybersecurity instructor for several training and certification organizations. I have worked in corporate, military, government, and workforce development training environments I am a frequent speaker at professional conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, the (ISC)2 World Congress 2016, and the ISSA International Conference 2017, and many local community organizations, including Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2006 at

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