Establish the Security Code for Embedded Systems

  • Posted: 7 months ago
  • Reading time: 4 minutes

Security of Embedded Systems is always considered ‘Excessive’ until it’s not enough! It is sheer bewilderment to know that our technology choices create the future for us- so why not make safe choices?

For instance, make a wise choice like former US vice-president Dick Cheney. With a medical history of heart attacks, Mr. Cheney had placed a pace-maker with wireless capability in his heart. Hence, he feared assassination by terrorists, to hack and give a life threatening shock to the implanted heart defibrillator. So way back in the year 2013, Cheney asked his doctors to fit a new pacemaker without wireless capability to make it safe from external attacks.

Most would recollect a plot from the famous television series Homeland, wherein a fictional vice-president was skillfully killed by terrorists sending electronic signals to his pacemaker that resulted in cardiac arrest. This very plot prompted Cheney to decide to replace the defibrillator.

Years before it was a sci-fi marvel- but now it is possible. Many small things, on which people rely for life, like insulin pumps, glucose monitors, and defibrillators are becoming Internet of “Things”. We are surrounded by impeccable software and hardware designs- embedded systems. Countless smart technology boosted marvels are strung together with one common perpetual threat- safety and security.

How to Avoid Getting Caught in the Crossfire?

It is a fact that good embedded software has to be designed for safety and security. What adds precarious levels of vulnerability in critical embedded devices for healthcare, automobiles or Internet of Things is- ‘Connectivity’.

As we are obnoxiously connecting all types of devices, the chains of technology are getting hard to break. For the next few years, security will be a significant megatrend, as the attacks are set to become more personal.

Implications of poor design can be immense- for instance, automobile giant Chrysler had to recall its 1.4 million vehicles because its dashboards were found hackable. During an experiment, it was found that while in motion, the car’s dashboard functions, steering, transmission, and brakes were compromised. Here, the systems were not even required to be connected to the Internet. Rendering it unsafe, sluggishly written embedded code and design took its toll.

A tight embodiment of security measures to counter severe threat levels requires an experienced embedded partner. It helps to understand the difference between safety and security, apply industry best practices and ensure that both are combined well into a product, right off the bat.

Sieve out Defects: Excellent software and hardware design require many layers of quality check, safeguarding protocols and protection employed consistently in the design process.

Shortcuts Don’t Exist for Safety and Security

Increasingly intertwined, ‘safety’ and ‘security’ are two terms that focus on the integrity of the ‘code’. For users, it is important to understand that a secured system is not necessarily safe- however, an insecure system is mandatorily unsafe.

At the recently concluded 2018 Embedded World trade fair, Security is acing all trends for embedded experts and industry giants. The usual tendency is to consider ‘security’ not as a product requirement- stands to change.

Companies experience tremendous pressure to reduce costs and get products faster to market, that puts this prominent trend on the backburner. The remedy is simple- understanding the problem well, adopting best programming practices, data encryption and implementing several barriers to attacks.

For designing of mission-critical applications like smart cities homes or cars, core tenets should be followed:

  • Hardware and software specifications that affect cost, performance, scalability, security, and reliability
  • Avoidance of single points of failure
  • Data Sanitization
  • Testing at every level

Ensure that your embedded service provider has experienced and expert developers who intricately understand user and device authentication, infrastructure and data encryption. While it is difficult to nullify attacks, developers can control how the system will react when attacked.

Embed Safety and Security with Radixweb

There is no-one-size-fits-all solution. A straightforward solution to minimize errors and enhance safety and security of embedded systems doesn’t exist. It has to be tailored to company’s needs. Embedded development providers know the eternal truth that bad code is a bait to expose a system. Using coding standards and practices such as MISRA C and CERT C to achieve functional safety proves beneficial.

Break the rhetoric that ‘You are safe and cannot be targeted’. Make sure your embedded systems last with embedded evangelists at Radixweb.