What is Firmware Security?

Ease of use is top of mind when designing and purchasing Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Security may be seen as an inhibitor of ease of use. However, considering IoT firmware security and deploying IoT firmware-level security solutions is not only essential for protecting against cyber threats but can also simplify IoT security management and monitoring.

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What is Firmware Security?

What is Firmware?

With most computers, people primarily interact with the hardware and the top-level software, which makes it easy to believe they are all that there is. However, computers also have a third layer that lies between the hardware and the software.

 

Firmware is designed to be the interface between a computer’s hardware and software. It abstracts away many of the low-level, hardware-specific details of how the computer works, making it easier to develop software and to run the same software on multiple systems.

IoT Security Challenges

Implementing strong IoT device security can be difficult for a number of reasons. When attempting to secure their devices, IoT device manufacturers must contend with the following challenges:

 

  • Use of Third-Party Components: Supply chain vulnerabilities present a serious risk for IoT devices, as these devices may incorporate components provided by third-party suppliers. If these components have exploitable vulnerabilities or have been tampered with, then they may place the security of the IoT device and its users at risk.
  • Lack of IoT Standards: One of the leading causes of the generally poor security of IoT devices is the lack of IoT regulation. Without security standards and regulations in place, devices and their components may fail to meet even basic cybersecurity requirements and manufacturers lack guidance regarding security best practices for their industry.
  • Poor Device Management and Patching: IoT devices are commonly deployed under a “fire and forget” mentality. While an organization’s security team may keep traditional computers protected and secure, they may not consider the importance of monitoring and updating the Internet-connected light bulb or toaster. This increases the probability that vulnerabilities in these devices will remain unpatched and exploitable by attackers.
  • Insecure Network Connections: With the rise of 5G, IoT devices will be increasingly connected to mobile networks and have direct connectivity to the public Internet. This robs them of the protections of the enterprise security stack, making them more vulnerable to exploitation.

Firmware Security: Why it's Important

The fact that firmware sits below software makes it difficult to properly secure it without a dedicated solution. However, implementing such a solution can provide a number of benefits for an IoT device manufacturer, including:

 

  • Customer Confidence: Consumers want to believe that their devices are secure against attack and properly protect their sensitive data. Incorporating security into the firmware level of IoT devices enables a manufacturer to provide a much stronger guarantee of safety and security to its customers.
  • Competitive Advantage: The lack of IoT cybersecurity regulations and standards means that many IoT manufacturers do not have a focus on security. With cybersecurity and data privacy becoming an increasingly visible and important issue to consumers, implementing and marketing an IoT device’s strong security posture can provide a significant competitive advantage.
  • Regulatory Compliance: While IoT security regulation is lagging, some jurisdictions are actively working to pass IoT security laws. Implementing strong security practices in advance reduces the impact of these laws on a manufacturer’s future operations.
  • Expanded Market Reach: Certain industries have strict cybersecurity requirements regarding the devices that can be deployed on their networks and used to process potentially sensitive data. Implementing firmware security can enable an IoT device manufacturer to meet these requirements and enter and compete in these markets.
  • Device Security Management: IoT devices are commonly difficult to effectively monitor and manage for their users, leaving them with unpatched vulnerabilities. A firmware security solution can enable device security and updates to be centrally managed from a cloud-based platform.
  • Integrated Security: IoT devices’ unique security requirements mean that many traditional cybersecurity solutions cannot run on them. A firmware security solution that is part of an integrated security platform enables more effective monitoring and management of these devices.

Implementing IoT Firmware Security

Check Point recommends a three step process for protecting IoT devices. The first step in this process is identifying the potentially exploitable vulnerabilities present on an IoT device. To help IoT device manufacturers with this step, Check Point offers a free IoT vulnerability assessment.

 

The next stage in the process is hardening IoT devices against cyber threats. A crucial part of this stage is implementing IoT firmware security. CheckPoint’s IoT Protect Nano Agent implements firmware-level security for IoT devices and provides a number of different benefits, such as:

 

  • Runtime Protection
  • Protection Against Zero-Day Attacks
  • No Source Code Necessary
  • Complete Firmware Coverage
  • Easy Installation
  • Minimal Performance Impacts

 

The final stage in the IoT device security process is controlling the device’s cybersecurity. By using IoT Protect Nano Agent – which has a native integration with Check Point Infinity NEXT – it is possible to manage updates and other security management for IoT devices from a cloud-based online portal.

 

To evaluate the security risk of your IoT devices, check out Check Point’s IoT firmware risk assessment. And once you have a clear view of your potential cybersecurity risks and attack vectors, please don’t hesitate to request a demo of IoT Protect Nano Agent to learn how to easily and effectively protect your IoT devices.

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