M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentFaina Orit
SubjectCan We Trust a TEE-Based Sim?
DepartmentDepartment of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Supervisors PROF. Avi Mendelson
MR Hagai Bar-El
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


Nowadays, a continuously growing number of devices in almost every field of our lives is connected to the Internet. Many of these new markets choose to connect their devices via the mobile network because of its many advantages. Mobile standards such as the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) and the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) require their consumers to have a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM). The SIM in its current form, a secure element built on smart card technology called Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC), provides isolation and a high level of security robustness, yet it generates difficulties for the IoT space, because of its main characteristics: (1) its slot takes up significant space in the hosting device; (2) it contains only one network profile;
(3) it traditionally does not support Over the Air (OTA) updates; and (4) it requires human intervention for switching a network profile. In order to fully realize the potential of the new consumer markets, the industry must adopt alternative approaches to SIM. Two forms may be considered: Secure Element (SE), e.g. an integrated SIM (iSIM) or an embedded SIM (eSIM); and Trusted Execution Environment (TEE), e.g. a software SIM running on a TEE.

In this research, we examine whether, and in what cases, the TEE-based SIM approach manages to meet the security requirements of a SIM, in its primitive form or with modifications in hardware, firmware and/or software. We do so by: (1) identifying the TEE-based SIM security gap by comparing representative Protection Profiles (PPs) of TEE and SE; (2) presenting four threat models of IoT exemplary use cases; and (3) evaluating the TEE-based SIM suitability for each of the examined IoT use cases.