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Hot Tech 2015: Embedded security goes crypto

December 02, 2014

Stephen.Evanczuk-December 02, 2014

This article is part of EDN, Embedded.com and EE Times’ Hot Technologies: Looking ahead to 2015 feature, where our editors examine some of the hot trends and technologies in 2014 that promise to shape technology news in 2015 and beyond. http://www.edn.com/design/systems-design/4437806/Hot-technologies-- Looking-ahead-to-2015

Embedded systems face ongoing threats of penetration by persistent individuals and organizations armed with increasingly sophisticated tools. On-chip security features do serve as fundamental enablers for secure systems but can provide a false sense of security without a broader view of security policies. Consequently, the trend toward enterprise-level security lifecycle management emerges as the most promising solution for hardened security in embedded systems underlying the explosive growth of interconnected applications.

Over 130 years ago, Dutch linguist and cryptographer Auguste Kerckhoffs stated that a cipher system should not require secrecy and could even fall into enemy hands without causing a problem -- a rule that has come to be known as Kerckhoffs's Principle. Claude Shannon, the father of information theory and electronic communications, reformulated this simply as "The enemy knows the system," now known as Shannon's Maxim.

Commercial embedded systems promise to test these fundamental principles beyond that seen in any other application area. In marked contrast to more conventional secure systems, these systems can be openly acquired by potential attackers, who at their leisure can work to tease out literally every bit of secret information using readily accessible tools.

Semiconductor manufacturers have made great strides in providing strong hardware-based foundations for security. More and more MCUs and specialized processors now include on-chip hardware accelerators for crypto operations, allowing secure real-time communications without loss of performance or increased communications latency. The trend continues in 2015 for inclusion of even more comprehensive hardware support for security.

To read more of this external content, go to "Embedded security rises and falls with crypto key management."

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