Embedded Systems Security Vulnerabilities and Protection Measures
Some tips and important consideration for embedded devices, which are often connected to the internet and can be vulnerable to various types of cyberattacks.
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Cybersecurity for embedded devices, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and other connected devices, is becoming increasingly important as these devices become more ubiquitous in our daily lives. The risks of the rising tide of security threats are significant. Beyond reputational damage, competitive threats, eroding customer confidence, and safety challenges, regulators are also paying increasing attention. Root of trust and certificate management are common for device identity and protection.
Here are some critical other considerations for improving the cybersecurity of embedded devices.
Implementing a secure boot process is a critical first step in securing an embedded device. Secure Boot ensures that only authorized firmware is loaded onto the device during the boot process, preventing the device from being compromised by unauthorized software. In addition, secure booting mechanisms, such as those based on Trusted Platform Module (TPM) technology and Public Key Infrastructure tree (PKI tree), can ensure that only trusted code is executed on the device. This can prevent malware or malicious code from being executed on the device.
All data transmitted between the device and other systems should be encrypted to prevent eavesdropping and data theft. Encryption can help protect sensitive data stored on the device and transmitted over networks.
Limiting access to the device through proper access controls can help prevent unauthorized access and tampering. Measures include strong passwords, biometric authentication, multi-factor authentication, and limiting access to only authorized users. If application usage supports certificate-based authentication, it is best to avoid strong passwords. Also, disable unnecessary protocols, IP addresses, and ports.
Digitally signing executables and scripts helps confirm the software author and guarantee the code has not been altered or corrupted. A cryptographic hash is used to validate authenticity and integrity.
Regularly updating the firmware on an embedded device is critical for patching any known vulnerabilities. It is crucial to ensure that the firmware updates are secure and authenticated and that the device is not vulnerable to attacks during the update process.
Hardware-level security features can also be implemented to provide additional layers of protection. These can include secure storage of sensitive data, hardware-based encryption, secure key storage, and disabling unused hardware ports like USB, COM, and JTAG. In addition, secure storage for keys provides integrity and confidentiality guarantees on data stored in persistent memory.
Use Network Segmentation
Network segmentation can help isolate the device from other devices on the network and prevent attackers from accessing other devices if the embedded device is compromised.
Conduct Regular Security Assessments
Regular security assessments can help identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the device's security, allowing them to be addressed before attackers can exploit them.
Testing and Validation
Regular testing and validation of the device's security measures are critical to ensuring the device remains secure over time. Some embedded security feature implementation is complex, and hardware dependency must be tested for potential implementation issues. This can include both automated and manual testing, as well as regular security audits and assessments.
The biggest challenge for embedded systems might be having no GUI or physical access. Small-footprint devices typically have far less battery power, processing speed, and memory than PCs or phones. Resource limitations and tool availability will limit some of these feature implementations. Developers should take protective measures based on their device's intended usage, interface, and connectivity measures. By implementing these and other cybersecurity measures, embedded devices can be better protected against the growing threats of cyberattacks and data breaches.
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