NEC and Cisco to provide network equipment with enhanced supply chain management

February 17, 2020 - TOKYO, JAPAN: NEC Corporation (NEC) today announced that it has strengthened processes for confirming the authenticity of network equipment used for security areas and critical industrial infrastructure prior to shipment, during construction, and during operation by combining its fraud detection technologies with those from Cisco Systems G.K. (Cisco), utilizing NEC blockchain technologies for network devices.

This is an important advancement in NEC's efforts to strengthen the verification, monitoring, and management of authenticity throughout the network system supply chain by expanding the scope of targeted network equipment through partnerships. Both NEC and Cisco aim to begin rolling out network equipment based on this initiative from fiscal 2020.

1. Background and Objectives

In recent years, cyber threats have become increasingly serious, and there are growing concerns that attacks targeting the security domain and the supply chains of critical industrial infrastructure could cause significant economic and social damage. In addition, security measures for network equipment in a multi-vendor environment and risk management throughout the entire supply chain, from device design to manufacturing, transportation, and maintenance, are also considered important issues.

In response to these challenges, NEC is cooperating with Cisco to provide a network system platform that can use information and communications equipment safely and securely.

2. Overview

The first step in this initiative is to verify the existing authenticity of Cisco equipment with NEC by combining Cisco's proprietary Trustworthy technology, NEC's lightweight tamper detection technology and blockchain technology.

Trustworthy technology uses device-specific IDs, digital signatures, and other technical elements to verify authenticity of devices from both the hardware and software perspectives, and has already been implemented in many Cisco network devices. Lightweight tamper detection technology uses embedded software to detect program tampering and enables high-speed detection with execution codes consisting of just a few kilobytes, which is ideal for low-memory devices and equipment with strict delay time constraints.

By recording historical data inspected by these technologies in a blockchain, network administrators can check, monitor, and manage the authenticity of Cisco devices during shipment inspection and network construction.

In the future, NEC also plans to introduce lightweight tamper detection technology to enhance the authenticity of its products.

Moreover, NEC plans to extend these efforts throughout the entire life cycle, including during operation, expansion, upgrades, and maintenance. This not only confirms when the authenticity of a device was secured during its life cycle, but also enables timely detection, identification of the extent of impact, and rapid formulation of countermeasures in the event of an incident.

Going forward, NEC will work with Cisco to expand equipment partnerships and the control of supply chain information in order to enable the end-to-end monitoring and management of network equipment for security areas and critical industrial infrastructure.

As an example, NEC may use this technology from the initial construction of a local 5G project in order to confirm, monitor, and manage the authenticity of the overall project.

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