Hardware Security – An Easily Missed but Crucial Piece of the Cyber Security Puzzle

Hardware Security

Building secure products require shuffling and adjusting business priorities, working on organizational maturity, and related processes to establish clear metrics.

Cyber security remains a critical foundation of the rapidly expanding digital world-spanning software and hardware that powers everything from personal devices to the global infrastructure. Over the last decade, significant progress has been made in several security domains, especially for maturing secure software development processes.

Over the years, hardware security has received only limited attention. However recently, major chip vulnerabilities got uncovered, such as Spectre and Meltdown, which serve as a harsh reminder that the systems can only be as secure as its related weakest link.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, industries have witnessed an exponential growth in hardware vulnerabilities over the last few years, rapidly catching up with the software growth recorded over the last decades.

While software can be patched, hardware can never be updated easily; thus, the potential negative business impact of such security flaws are increasing dramatically.

Building secure products, whether hardware or software, is a journey that not only involves technical solutions but a constant adjustment of business priorities, maturing products, and processes, as well as establishing clear metrics to analyze business risks and progress towards their mitigation. Enterprises must address all the security concerns holistically – paying equal attention to hardware security.

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Today with the risks increasing in leaps and bounds, cyber security is addressed mostly in disconnected silos. Yet, it is important to remember that security is a system property that, in order to be responsive and comprehensive, must be considered across domains (software, hardware, firmware, OS, application, cloud, network, etc.) and across the system lifecycle (design, manufacturing, development, supply chain, support, and maintenance, etc.).

Hardware security, no doubt, remains one of the most critical foundations of the overall system security. The integration of hardware security with “downstream” solutions will enable a higher-responsive and more impermeable approach to cyber security.

As security becomes another product requirement, there exists a natural concern whether it delays the time to market will slow down the development process, and therefore impact the business productivity and profitability.

For security strategies to be successful, it is imperative that they minimally weigh on development velocity, to avoid the creation of conflicting choices between timely product delivery and product security.

A successful security program is marked by:

  • Clearly indicated business objectives and priorities defined upfront and aligned among all stakeholders.
  • The security and development teams need to closely collaborate throughout the product life cycle from the project mapping to product shipment and support.
  • Functional testing, product development, and security testing must be integrated tightly to operate in lock-step to ensure timely issues addressed.
  • Security testing tools must support the development process daily rather than getting in its way. Among others things, this is very much about automated applications of tests in an ongoing process, low false positive rate along with clear remediation advice supported by quick understanding and issues resolution.

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  • Security governance and oversights need to be done in real-time through meaningful metrics to allow quick intervention and avoid late security surprises.

Ensuring adherence to all the above, and being conscious of the role hardware has to play in these outages, gives due importance to hardware security, so businesses can scale their businesses to new heights of success.