Cyber Security Awareness: Embedded Hardware Dangers

Most of the time, when you hear about a hack attack the focus is mainly on the software portion of the attack. You hear from security experts all of the time on different ways for you to be able to protect your operating system. If it is not the operating system then it is the programs that are running on the operating system. But the software side is not the only place where danger lies. There is also danger on the hardware side as well.

The hardware side is becoming more of a dangerous place because of how much we are reliant in these times. The rise of the mobile phone has brought with it a new reliance on hardware. We carry hardware objects around with is now like we once did our wallets. In the recent past, the most technology that we would carry around with us was a CD player. Now that is no longer the case.

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The reason why we have to take hardware security seriously is because it is so valuable to us now. We use it as part of our everyday agenda and not just as part of an unnecessary accessory. But the problem is that hardware is really powerful these days. Even in small devices. So anytime someone is able to take the software that is controlling that piece of hardware off and place their own customized version on, they are dealing with a lot of resources.

For example, let’s take an attack that we know has been happening for a long time now. It is an attack on the USB devices that we use. Most of these types of USB devices come from overseas. It is hard to tell what is safe and what is not when you are dealing with an overseas supplier. For a long time, there were some overseas suppliers who were shipping malware on the hardware that they sent over. The malware was hard to detect and they were on very cheap devices. These were cheap devices that no one ever bothered to check anyway. As soon as the USB device was attached to a computer, the malware would awaken and then install itself on the computer. A simple $10 piece of hardware caused a huge amount of damage.

But it is not just USB devices. There has been malware found in hardware devices such as DVD burners, the controllers for hard drives and yes even in mobile phones. And not just smart phones. We are talking about phones that are considered very cheap.

Unlike software where you have dozens of solutions to fight problems such as these, hardware hacking is a hard problem to control. Unless you are a professional security expert, there is no way for the average person to be able to check whether their hardware has been affected or not. The exposure only comes after the malware has done its job already. But no one wants to be told that there was nothing that they could do when their phone has sent out all of their personal information to some unknown third party.

The best chance that consumers have is to check comments and reviews of products. This will help make sure that what they are buying is of the highest caliber. It is a shame that you have to learn off of someone else’s misfortune but that is how it is sometimes. There is no need for you to fall into the same trip that the person leaving the review did. Also, if you do hear security experts talking negatively about a product, then you should really listen.
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About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

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