Today IoT has drastically changed the way we live and work. But, very few agencies are thinking about the real problem of Embedded Systems Security.

Product engineering companies have been focusing on fitting in larger functionalities in smaller embedded systems. IoT is present in agricultural supplies, doctor’s clinics, public transportation systems, the national defence system, and so on and so forth. But, the question that arises here is – ‘Are your devices secure enough?’

The smallest loop in the security of embedded systems can give hacker the access to all your sensitive data. Does this worry you? It should! Hence, securing the system from every point possible is of utmost importance.

automotive embedded system market size

Image Source – Globe Newswire

What to keep in mind while building security embedded systems?

  • Confidentiality
  • Integrity
  • Availability

Collectively, the above three policies are called the CIA Triad.

Why do we need embedded system security?

An embedded system is a programmed hardware device with a limited operating system and software. Embedded devices are structured to perform specific functions or just a particular task. Embedded device security is a planned method to protect the software operating on embedded systems from foreign hackers.

In an organization, many commonly used devices are linked in an Embedded system. These devices may include computer systems, laptops, tablets, industrial instruments, medical devices, automobiles, and many more. Hence, these embedded systems protection is of crucial importance.

The development of secure embedded systems is required to tackle cyber attackers. Hackers can break through embedded systems vulnerabilities without robust embedded security solutions. Cyber attacks are made to creep into your intellectual property, get access to your organization’s sensitive and confidential information, and copy your project ideas.

Hackers plan these attacks to learn about your customer details and use your database information to cause you damage, both physical and intellectual. Because cyber attacks are increasing these days, organizations need to work on how to secure the embedded systems.

An embedded security engineer needs to implement vital embedded software security techniques to protect against potential cyber-attacks in the future.

Read More: How to Select the Best Embedded Engineers Out of the Lot?

Challenges in Embedded Security Systems

Multiple layers of protection, viz. firewalls, authentication, encryption, intrusion prevention systems, etc., safeguard the enterprise data. But, at times, embedded systems lack firewalls and are protected only through a password.

Active & Passive Attacks – Basic Difference

There are two types of attacks – active and passive. In an active attack, the hacker will try to distort the messages, whereas a passive attacker will read, observe and copy the messages.

Listing the major embedded systems security issues down below:

  • Delayed Security Updates

The job is not over after the system deployment. There are system upgrades now and then. In such cases, when the security system patching is delayed or not updated regularly, malware can enter quickly.

It’s nothing new that most embedded systems run on the same system even years after deployment. It becomes a breeding ground for such viruses to enter and breach the data. If the device needs an update, it has to be imbibed into it to make its security updating possible.

  • Replication of Attacks

This is the worst threat that can cause a lot of destruction altogether, at once.

Each lot (a batch) of devices is of the same design – hardware and software both. If a hacker succeeds in hacking one device, they can hack into all the other pieces of the same batch.

Replicating an attack is an easier task than cracking it for the first time. This poses an increased risk to all the devices of that batch.

  • Device Lifecycle – Present & Future

Devices manufactured today are durable enough to last for about a decade on average. They remain intact for years together. While developing such a secure embedded system, the manufacturer has to consider minimizing the threats that pose a risk today as well as have the scope of doing so in the coming decades.

Most manufacturers fail to estimate the device’s life cycle; hence they don’t make the devices capable of the potential risks.


Data breach poses a risk to both – end-users and their privacy and system builders and their secret keys to securing the platforms.

  • Remotely Deployed Devices

Not all devices can stay within the perimeter of safety measures created for them. Such remotely located devices are connected directly to the internet without any security layers attached. These insecure connections cause issues to the embedded devices security.

  • Dependency

We are highly dependent on embedded systems for our day to day management and handling. If there is a data breach or cyber security attack on the system, it will give birth to privacy concerns, personal security, etc. These can end up in catastrophic results for individual users or organizations with fields of company data.

  • Industrial Protocol Attacks

There are specific industrial protocols that the enterprise security tools cannot protect. The firewalls created can help in enterprise-specific threats but cannot save the crucial data from the industrial protocol attacks. The risk remains unattended and unsolved.

  • Assumptions

The amount and gravity of embedded systems security risks have also gone way too high with the advancing technologies.

When it comes to the security of embedded systems, people usually assume that Embedded Devices

  • are not vulnerable to cyberattacks.
  • are not attractive targets for hacking.
  • get sufficient security with encryption and authentication.

The assumptions mentioned earlier are not relevant in today’s time. Yet, some people believe that their devices are completely out of risk. To their surprise, they have no idea what amount of risk lies in using embedded systems.

End to end security for embedded systems

Top 6 Strategies to Battle Against Embedded Systems Security Threats

Security embedded systems provide the processes, practices and the best tools to secure the software running on the embedded system from an attack. These are a smart combination of hardware components with a minimal operating system.

To put it differently, Embedded Systems Security is a hardware-software partnership to save the embedded system from posed threats.


Attackers or Hackers have numerous Attack Vectors.

Attack Vectors are the paths or ways for an attacker to crack into the embedded security system.

Furthermore, let us check out some security measures that an embedded software development company must use to protect the embedded cyber security from the threats mentioned above:

#1 End-To-End Risk Gauging

Here’s an analogy to understand an ideal defence system of embedded systems. Humans develop dental problems like gum infection or tooth enamel wearing off when the gums are not healthy. That being said, it means an outsider (hackers) enters and creates problems in teeth (virus) when they are not well protected.

Similarly, to secure embedded systems, the development team must ensure that they have all the probable risks covered.

#2 Using Secure Boot System for Embedded Systems

By using cryptographic algorithms, the embedded system can verify the boot image. If the verification goes through, one can understand the boot sequence is correct. On the other hand, if the boot system does not go through the verification, an unauthorized user tampered with the firmware and the internal data.

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By this, we mean that the developer must rectify & improve the security designs from time to time. We prepare a backup plan to save the system from getting hacked.

If the hackers are one step ahead, then we, as the embedded software developers, are two steps ahead of them.

#3 Use Microkernel OS to Reduce the Attack Space

Microkernel OS consumes lesser space and has a smaller code. Thus, replacing the traditional OS with the microkernel OS can reduce the space for attackers to crack into the system and cause damage. We help the clients to reduce the chance of cyber attacks on their embedded systems.

#4 Make Your Device Tampering Detection Game Strong!

Ideal and properly packaged softwares are self-controlled. Through this, you can get notified when the seal of the system breaks. This would indicate that some unknown user has tried to enter into and tamper the device. Our tamper detection is the strongest to safeguard your cyber security embedded systems.

#5 Comprehensive Life Cycle Support

We all know an embedded system equipped device like a central heating system, once deployed, is used for over ten years.

Besides, technology is advancing with each passing day, the number and type of threats are also surging. Devices today require embedded systems protection at a critical layer against such risks. Efficient software developing companies prepare such backup plans well in advance.

#6 Use Modern Cryptography Techniques

We use the latest techniques of encryption to prevent unknown and unauthorized users from accessing your encrypted data. All keys, passwords, sensitive information, etc., at rest, i.e., stored on the device, can be encrypted for safety.

Read More: Estimation Cost to Develop an Embedded IoT Solution from the Scratch

Embedded Systems Security – A Quick Wrap-Up!

Your query should not be if your embedded system devices are safe; it should be if they are safe enough!

Each embedded device functions differently; hence it is at a different risk than the rest. To protect the device, the security has to be so well-knit that even if the device steps out of the security perimeter range, it remains safe.

Hire IoT software development experts at Excellent Webworld to build secure and robust embedded systems for your needs. Your devices performing critical functions deserve top-notch security from advanced cyber threats.

Build a Embadead System Security

FAQs – Embedded Systems Security

Yes, it is very much possible to hack into embedded systems. Most embedded systems are protected only through passwords; hence, hackers can hack embedded systems for ethical or unethical purposes.

Embedded systems security is complex because of the following reasons:

  • Easy attacking techniques.
  • Many agencies lack expertise in this field.
  • Security is only as strong as its weakest link; it becomes easy to replicate and cause damage once cracked into.

Securing embedded systems is of utmost importance because these devices have sensitive company/individual information that any unknown or unauthorized user should not access. You can prevent a hacker from accessing and tampering the vital information.

The techniques to make embedded system security strong are applying a security strategy, thoroughly testing all the programs in real-time, data must be made private, encrypting information at both ends, designing a security plan for devices, and following the general security standards.

Embedded Systems vulnerabilities are an opportunity for hackers to peep into your confidential and sensitive data. The common vulnerabilities to the security in embedded systems are programming errors, weak passwords or authentication, and end-to-end encryption failures.

Mahil Jasani

Article By

Mahil Jasani

Mahil Jasani began his career as a developer and progressed to become the COO of Excellent Webworld. He uses his technical experience to tackle any challenge that arises in any department, be it development, management, operations, or finance.