Tackling Cybersecurity Issues the Hardware Way

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cybersecurity issues

Security is an issue that has been in existent for a long time and definitely predates the internet itself. Bringing cybersecurity issues closer to home, particularly with respect to the internet and digital devices, it has been a source of worry for all and sundry in the past couple of years. The pervasiveness of computing has made everyone – both young and old be able to perform computing operations with digital devices virtually everywhere they go and this comes with its upsides and downsides.

Downsides associated with the Internet

This seamless connectivity that the internet offers definitely comes with its downsides. First of all, the Internet of Things that connects devices together has given malicious individuals a pool of opportunities to steal data via any loophole they find in any of these devices. Such devices might be an endpoint or serve as a connection to a more sensitive data warehouse which when breached, could cause catastrophic damage.

Considering “Internet of Services” which affords both individuals and business owners the opportunity to conduct transactions online, this also is a goldmine for hackers. Although there have been a couple of solutions proffered for the problems experienced in this domain such as the use of VPN for Windows, Linux and MacOS, safety tips to be adhered to when submitting personal information online and so on, cyberattacks from hackers are still on an astronomical increase.

Hardware not left out in the cybersecurity war

In as much as software and network get the most attention from the media when it comes to cybersecurity, the hardware is also just as vulnerable. Deliberate design manipulations and compromises are usually orchestrated way before the attack is launched and this could very well be described as a time bomb. Unlike software issues that can easily be patched, a compromised circuit can’t. The US Department of Defense in collaboration with private industrialists are in the process of developing cohesive and comprehensive plans which will provide a framework for commercial, industrial and military systems.

As mentioned earlier, unlike software breaches that can be patched, vulnerabilities such as Foreshadow, Spectre, and Meltdown need to be fixed within the hardware. Security measures which included the use of an impassable firewall to shield sensitive data and the securement of the supply chain used for technological purposes – both of which were once considered sterling security measures are now been regarded as insufficient.

An intervention, Automatic Implementation of Secure Software (AISS) is being developed by Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) with the DoD’s backing. This software is targeted at four attack surfaces – malicious hardware, reverse engineering, side-channel attacks, and supply chain”. The aim is simple – while involving the cost of security, intelligent tradeoffs are made. These tradeoffs would involve an agreement to implement multi-layer security in the initial architecture of a hardware product rather than safeguarding authentication keys in a chip’s segment in order to secure boot-up.

Although this might seem interesting, there’s a catch. Sophisticated security measures and mechanisms cost power and area – both of which could dampen performance so when deciding where the cost function gets incurred by the user, intelligent decisions have to be made. This framework is however not going to be some top-secret project as many might imagine. The Department of Defense is only one of the beneficiaries of this project as the automotive sector is set to imbibe such a security framework.

HP’s approach to solving cybersecurity issues

HP, a household tech company have quite a reputation for their quality home and office equipment they produce year-in, year-out. Apart from the quality and durability of their products offer, they also hold security in high regard. This, therefore, explains the number of security measures taken in the form of partnerships with security-based companies in order to increase the number of security offerings they provide their customers. Explained below are two of the popular ones:

  • HP Sureview: Since laptops have become so portable and people get to work anywhere they feel comfortable, there is every possibility someone nearby might be peeking onto the screen of the user either out of curiosity or for malicious reasons. Once the Sureview feature is activated on the PC, this technology makes sure that anybody viewing the screen from an angle other than that of the user, will see a blacked-out screen.
  • HP Webcam Kill Switch: After Mark Zuckerberg’s viral video showing that he covered his webcam with tape, everyone has gone agog with the fact that they could be monitored remotely even without putting on their webcam. HP now offers a kill switch feature in the new HP Spectre x360 13 which is used to electronically disable the webcam when not in use.

Other security measures employed by HP and other tech giants include the Sure Sense feature and the pre-installation of ExpressVPN on the new HP Spectre x360 13 PC. Microsoft has Microsoft Hello and Dell utilizes its threat prevention software among others. With the wake of cybersecurity issues, hardware manufacturers are taking definite measures to see that this menace is checked in time.

Read more: VPN Jargon – What does it all mean?


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