Why security pros should care about hardware security

We all want and need security: it’s a basic human instinct that applies to all aspects of life. From the prehistoric days of a cave and bonfire, security has evolved to the cyber domain in our modern world. Today, there’s a large focus on endpoint and network security, with enterprises investing heavily in these areas. However, hardware security gets neglected, leaving a massive gap in defense capabilities. But how do we define hardware security? And if enterprises seem to ignore it, should we pay attention to it?

What is hardware security? 

Hardware security functions as an essential component of cybersecurity. Through Layer 1 visibility, hardware security provides enterprises with a complete picture of all assets within their infrastructure. This lets enterprises gain proper control over their assets and ensure policy enforcement, which is paramount to a strong cybersecurity posture. Further, asset visibility equips enterprises with the means to identify rogue and vulnerable devices that could get used to execute a hardware-based attack.

Why are so many security pros unaware of hardware security? 

The lack of hardware security awareness largely stems from its lack of media coverage. Now, one may think that if the topic were so important, it would receive widespread recognition. Well, ironically, because of a lack of hardware security, hardware-based threats go unidentified. Manipulated devices operate on Layer 1, where existing security solutions, such as NAC, EPS, IDS, or IoT Network Security, are not covered.

As a result, without hardware security in place, there’s no mechanism to detect suspicious activity occurring on the physical layer, Layer 1. Instead, enterprises are under the false pretense that there are no hardware vulnerabilities. Similarly, should a hardware-based attack take place, it gets misdiagnosed as a quotidian attack. The visibility gap makes it near impossible to correctly identify the attack’s origin (i.e. a hardware attack tool), meaning it gets wrongly attributed to a traditional vector, such as phishing or a zero-day software exploit. With the illusory perception that there are no hardware vulnerabilities or attacks taking place, media outlets have little to report. 

March 14th, 2022