With the rise of our reliance on technology in this modern age, so has the skill level of hackers grown during this same time. It seems to no matter how much we try to fight it, with every piece of technology that gets more popular there is going to be someone out there who is trying to exploit it. Even in systems that we once thought to be safe are being exploited now. Right now even embeddable systems are under attack.
But popularity is only one reason why embeddable systems are under attack. The other reason why they are receiving so much attention lately is because of the amount of information out there about them. In the past when you wanted to know about an embeddable system that was for example, in your microwave, you had to be lucky. You had to hope that either your microwave came with that information or the company that created the microwave would send you the information. They had to trust you enough to hope that you were only trying to fix your microwave and not trying to steal the information to make your own.
But now, for a lot of the systems that are out there, you only have to go on the internet to get the information that you need. There are a lot of systems out there for different products who have their schematic information on the web for you to be able to look at. We are now living in a do it yourself culture where everyone is able to take their item apart and try to work on it themselves. But not everyone is using this information to try and help people. They are using this information for their very own selfish ends.
What are embedded systems?
Before we go any further we should take a look at what embedded systems are in the first place. Well as you probably already know, most of the items that we use these days have some sort of technology in it. Even if it is not much, there is usually a bit of technology in the items that we see. You probably do not think of it as actually technology when you see it. For most people, technology is a computer or the GPS system in your car. They do not really think of technology as the alarm clock that is setting in the bed room. While not all technology is considered state of the art, as long as it is a digital form it still counts as technology.
An embeddable system is the item that runs this technology. It is its heart and brain of the simple tech that you are using all at the same time. The embeddable system allows you to run the item like a computer. An embeddable system usually only has a few mandates and not the numerous amount like a computer does. For example, the elevator that you ride on in your apartment has an embeddable system inside of it. It only has to know the correct floors to stop and start on. Nothing more. When you press the button, the signal goes to the embeddable system and it then carries out the order. Once you are done it then signals again for the elevator doors to open. This would be overkill for an entire computer system to handle so they place in there a small embeddable system to be able to get the job done. Another example is the traffic lights that control your drive on the way home. Sure they may talk to a bigger overall system on the back end but for the most part the traffic lights are controlled by a local embeddable system.
The security implications of embeddable systems
The facts that embeddable systems are everywhere are why people getting to know how to manipulate them is very dangerous. For the most part, there is not much protection in these systems but yet we use them all of the time. You will not go through the day, unless you are on camping trip in the deep dark woods, where you will not run into an embeddable system. So if they are everywhere in our daily lives why are they not better protected?
Well that is starting to change. There is a new white hat movement starting up to better protect embedded systems. They want them to be as secure as good as the other systems that we use in our everyday lives. We know now that we cannot rely on security through obscurity anymore. If we use a system enough we must make sure that it is protected and not just sitting out in the open waiting for the bad guys to come after it.