Embedded systems security is a strategy that provides embedded systems protection from cyber attacks. Embedded systems, also known as “embedded computers,” are small devices with a dedicated function within a more extensive system.

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are examples of embedded systems. For instance, smart household appliances, such as your refrigerator, thermostat, and security alarm perform different functions. However, they are part of the whole household system and interconnected to each other through the Internet.

Embedded systems security aims to protect the software running on these devices since malicious actors are increasingly targeting them.

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IoT has led to the interconnection of various embedded systems, making them vulnerable to Internet-based attacks, such as hacking and malware. How vulnerable are they? The ethical hacker in the video below demonstrates how easy it is to hack into smart homes and control embedded systems.

The current cybersecurity landscape makes embedded systems security crucial.

How Does Embedded Systems Security Work?

While embedded systems security is a strategy, it comprises different security systems and tools. There are several providers of embedded systems security. Kaspersky Embedded Systems Security, for example, protects Windows embedded systems. Star Lab is another provider specializing in protecting embedded systems in the aerospace and military sectors.

Regardless of the company or provider, embedded systems security has crucial aspects, which include:

  • Threat monitoring: Embedded systems security should continuously track all parts of the embedded system for potential threats. A patch should immediately be designed and deployed when a threat is detected.
  • Continuous security design improvement: Embedded systems security works on the security design endlessly as new attack methods emerge. Even when the cyber attack tactic is not yet detected on the embedded system, the security design must be updated to protect against new malicious tactics.
  • Regular security upgrade: It’s critical to frequently upgrade embedded systems software to protect devices from emerging threats.
  • 24×7 support: Providers of embedded systems security should offer round-the-clock support to help internal teams with integration, testing, and other processes involved in the embedded system operations.

What Are Examples of Embedded Systems?

Embedded systems are present in households and other sectors, such as industrial, aviation, and defense. Security breaches in these areas would result in heavy damages, so securing them from cyber attacks is essential. Below are some examples of embedded systems.

  • Air traffic control systems
  • Aircraft management systems
  • Collision avoidance systems
  • Command-and-control (C&C) systems
  • Data routers and network switches
  • Electronic warfare systems
  • Flight control systems
  • Household appliances
  • MRI scanners, PET scanners, and pacemakers
  • Various radar systems
  • Weapons and guidance systems
  • Weather monitoring systems

Why Is Embedded Systems Security Important?

Imagine flying on a commercial plane on a regular day. For the aircraft to successfully reach its destination, everything in the background should work perfectly. For example, air traffic control and aircraft management systems must operate seamlessly.

What if someone hacks into the air traffic control system? The attacker can mess up the traffic, causing confusion, chaos, and even loss of lives.

Embedded systems security is vital because, without it, threat actors would be able to control embedded systems. Threats to these devices can result in real danger and physical damage.

What Are the Benefits of Embedded Systems Security?

Aside from keeping embedded systems and their users secure, this strategy can have underlying advantages. Companies implementing it will have a competitive edge since their products and services benefit from integrated security.

Customer trust will most likely grow, especially since people and organizations are increasingly becoming more concerned about security.

What Are the Challenges in Implementing Embedded Systems Security?

While this strategy is undoubtedly beneficial, organizations that want to implement the strategy may face some hurdles. For one, IoT devices can be difficult to monitor. Even when a security update is available, not all users may update their gadgets.

Another challenge is the supply chain vulnerability inherent to embedded systems. These devices’ parts come from different suppliers, which can be prone to malware, hacking, and other exploitation. Embedded systems security must take into account third-party components.

As a security strategy, embedded systems security will need to be continuously improved as more threats to embedded and IoT devices emerge. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to implement it to avoid real-life threats. We wouldn’t want a cybercriminal controlling our home heating system.