Hackers vs. Hackers: The New Frontier Of Embedded Devices

By on Jun 27, 2011

If we look at the evolution of hacking, certain techniques never go out of style, but we’re at the beginning of a big shift in terms of the targets.  The threat landscape has evolved beyond PCs, tablets, and smartphones to a whole new battleground: connected devices all around us.

According to Ericsson, there will be 50 billion IP-connected devices by 2020, up from 1 billion just a year ago. These are not just the omnipresent gadgets everyone is familiar with. A bigger share is made up of the proliferation of what the industry calls embedded devices; these are often single-purpose devices such as cash registers, airport check-in kiosks, medical devices, access card readers, manufacturing equipment, programmable logic controllers, industrial control systems and much more that is now being connected. As history has proven, security is an afterthought for most manufacturers. All these devices need proper security and management that is built in from day one.

At McAfee we protect the digital world, including this emerging class of embedded devices. As we go about doing this, we have moved to a fresh, proactive strategy. The scale and sophistication of recent cyberattacks prove that the traditional reactive model is no longer adequate – and quite frankly, irresponsible. Security strategy for any piece of technology should evolve at the same or greater pace as a hacker’s attacks.

We recently assembled a team of elite experts dubbed TRACE for Threat Research and Counterintelligence Experts, who can think like criminal hackers. McAfee now has the ability to conduct deep-dive threat research into hitherto-unknown areas such as embedded devices. Our team of elite white hat hackers will be probing for unexpected vulnerabilities, giving us valuable insight into how a “black hat” hacker thinks, with the ultimate goal of uncovering the problems before the black hat hackers do and provide protection.

Armed with this knowledge, companies have a better chance of withstanding any future malicious cyber attacks on valuable assets, whether that asset is as large as a nuclear power plant or as small as an embedded heart pacemaker. Our TRACE team has helped us put together a new series of Hacking Exposed webinars on hacking embedded devices. Be sure to join those.

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