New government funded report highlights vulnerabilities in microcontrollers

Microcontrollers constitute the backbone of a smart and connected world. Resilience against the hardware attacks highlighted in this report: ‘A Study on Hardware Attacks against Microcontrollers’ is required for numerous applications across various sectors to protect critical infrastructure, intellectual property, and sensitive information. 

The report authored by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied and Integrated Security (AISEC) on behalf of the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) is a comprehensive study. 

Used in numerous applications such as robotics, medical devices, aerospace, and automotive, microcontrollers are responsible for complex tasks – as such they contain valuable intellectual property (IP) that could be of interest to competitors and are therefore worth protecting. Furthermore, microcontrollers can be found in sensitive applications such as access control systems. Consequently, they contain credentials and other cryptographic secrets which make them an attractive target for adversaries. For that reason, the security of microcontrollers and their respective assets are of utmost importance for today’s applications. 

This report demonstrates the efforts that automate the application of certain countermeasures. It states: “control flow manipulations can be mitigated with compiler features as demonstrated in the practical evaluation. However, the compiler features are not mature enough for adoption by industry and even if they were, their overhead regarding code size and performance is immense.” 

Commenting on the report, Marc Fyrbiak, Chief Product Officer, says: “While hardware security is a foundation, a combination including software security is essential in order to provide a holistic solution. Devices can have the best hardware security, but if they lack software security, they could still get attacked anyway.” 

Emproof has over 30 years of combined experience in securing embedded systems and is at the forefront of embedded security, driving research and development to optimise for a minimal memory and performance impact. Our product, Emproof Nyx, can work in resource-constrained environments – where only 10% overhead or less is available. 

About Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft 

Founded in 1949, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft based in Germany is the world’s leading applied research organisation. Prioritising key future-relevant technologies and commercializing its findings in business and industry. It plays a major role in the innovation process. 

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