Overtaking The Black Hatters

Are the current security features in today’s electronics sufficient to keep out the black hatters? No, but this is changing very quickly.

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I think the question on many minds today is whether the security features in hardware and software included in electronic systems today will be enough to keep the hackers out. The threats are real, the impact on businesses and personal lives is painful. Thankfully, it is clearly evident that there is an impressive upswell of activity in the security realm happening everywhere – from academic research to industry, and everywhere in between.

It is also encouraging to see stories about ‘famous’ hackers turning to the light and leading the charge in ‘white hat’ hacking activities. Former black hat hacker Kevin Mitnick is now on the right side of the law and pointed out recently in an interview that today, while companies are very security aware and are trying to mitigate their risks, at the same time all the tools to exploit security are freely available to a 10-year-old.

When it comes to figuring out how to secure the IoT, companies like ARM are charging ahead full steam, looking at this issues from every angle. During the recent ARM Tech Day I attended in London, Peter Aldworth, senior hardware architect in the IoT Business Unit of ARM explained the company is leveraging established standard in the security space as a starting point. Of course it goes much deeper and wider after that, which we don’t have room to cover here.

Key to ARM’s strategy here is its February acquisition of IoT security software company Offspark that specializes in IoT communications security. Offspark’s PolarSSL technology is already deployed in the IoT in sensor and communication modules and smartphones.

They believe this will help developers using the ARM mbed platform to design and build IoT products with the best communication security and software cryptography.

This is just one example of what’s happening out there. It’s also a harbinger for design engineers to adjust their mindset to a security focus, if they haven’t already.