An embedded system is a programmable hardware component with a minimal operating system and software.
Embedded devices are very different from standard PCs. They are fixed function devices designed specifically to perform a specialized task. Many of them are designed using a specialized operating system such as VxWorks, MQX or Integrity, or a stripped down version of Linux.
The concern over embedded systems and other complex digital architectures is security.
Embedded systems are designed to perform a dedicated function or functions. Found in consumer electronics, process control systems, aircraft, in-car systems and many other applications, embedded systems need to be extremely reliable. Because of their small size and limited compute resources, however, they can present security challenges for designers and developers.
The firmware in embedded systems can be difficult to update. Embedded systems used to be designed to have a life cycle of 15 years or more. However, 5G and the Internet of things (IoT) has altered that approach. The nature of embedded systems is changing and the number of possible attack vectors is growing exponentially. Today, an embedded system in a smart device can be hacked to take control of everything from smart thermostats to industrial control systems.
No an embedded system security requires an end-to-end approach that includes addressing security issues during the design phase. Security considerations should include the cost of an attack on an embedded system, the cost of an attack and the number of possible attack vectors.
Cybersecurity professionals report there are several ways to prevent cyber-attacks on embedded systems, and recommend that software developers:
- Provide a way for network administrators to monitor connections to and from embedded systems
- Allow integration with third-party security management systems
- Expect firmware to be updated regularly
- Limit access to embedded systems to a need-to-use basis
Want to learn more? Tonex offers Cybersecurity Applied to Embedded Systems, a 2-day course where participants learn fundamentals of embedded systems and applications of cybersecurity to illustrate unique vulnerabilities that are commonly exploited.
Additionally, Tonex offers nearly three dozen more courses in Cybersecurity Foundation. This includes cutting edge courses like:
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