For decades now, microcontrollers have served as the brains of many types of electronic devices. Recently however, these devices begun to get connected to the outside world. Microcontrollers have always had the most basic security embedded in them since prior to the IoT, an attack on these devices required physical access to them. Now that they are being connected though, changes the game dramatically. On one hand the ability to connect to the microcontroller opens up a host of opportunities. The flip side though is that folks with not so good intentions have access to the device through the very same channel. The following article does an excellent excellent job of explaining the what, the why and how to for securing these older end points.
Hunt, a Microsoft distinguished engineer and managing director of the company’s Azure Sphere Linux-based operating system for IoT, was in his office in Redmond, Washington, when a colleague came in and showed him a floorplan for a chip to be used in an Xbox controller, which combined a microcontroller and radio on a single die. It was the first time that he had ever seen such a device.
Hunt said that he realized very quickly that what he was looking at represented what he calls “the fifth generation of computing.” There are more than 9 billion microcontrollers built and sold every year, and Hunt understood that one day soon, nearly all of them would be connected to the internet. This, he understood, would have a profound impact on the way that companies interacted with their customers, enabling the “democratization of network connectivity” that would serve as the foundation of IoT.
But Hunt, who delivered a keynote address this week at the Design Automation Conference (DAC) here, soon felt his wonderment give way to something else entirely. “I very quickly went to a second emotion,” he told the DAC audience. “And that emotion was fear.”