[Dshield] Embedded Systems Security Best Practices

Valdis.Kletnieks at vt.edu Valdis.Kletnieks at vt.edu
Mon Jan 19 15:20:53 GMT 2009

On Sat, 17 Jan 2009 17:03:17 EST, Jon Kibler said:

>   -- a book ("Practical Embedded Security: Building Secure
> Resource-Constrained Systems") that seem to be rather high level, and
> programming and network oriented, rather than systems hardening

That's as it should be.  If your embedded system is properly designed,
the end user shouldn't be able to get a 'login:' prompt.  As a result,
they won't be able to attack the system unless they first find an
exploitable bug in the software. That's why the text focuses on
programming and network - because that's the attack surface that's
going to be getting all the hits.

Other than "don't write buggy code", the only big issue for embedded
systems is "don't install software or run daemons that aren't specifically
needed to run the system".  Since often you're trying to cram the entire
system image into a 32M flash or something insane like that, this usually
isn't a big issue for embedded systems ;)

The big question - are you trying to harden it against Joe Sixpack (where just
making sure they don't get a '#' prompt is good enough), or is it a game
console/etc that has to survive attacks from a ticked-off teenager who just got
fragged and wants revenge (at which point you're going to see some pretty evil
network traffic), or does it have to survive somebody who both owns a JTAG and
knows how to use it (in which case you have some *really* serious issues to
deal with) ? ;)

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