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The importance of hardware security

Read about the importance of hardware security & examples for it.
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  • Technology

Today’s flow of information is swept with news about cybersecurity at the software level. It nearly seems like cybersecurity at the hardware level doesn’t exist. But what exactly is hardware security? Have you ever asked yourself that question? If so, then this blog article is written for you. Find out what hardware security means today.

Human beings are wired to protect themselves from any perceivable threats, mental or physical. In today’s age and time, though, we are not just protecting our bodies and brains; everything that belongs to us is an extension of us and, therefore, has proven to be equally important.
For a writer, it’s important not to lose the progress of their content. Students need to keep track of their notes at all times. Business marketers have to ensure that two different strategies don’t mix. For lack of a better word, these examples can seem a bit pedestrian compared with what we will talk about today.

What is hardware security?

Since its inception, technology has become one of the biggest assets for different sectors of the economy. From food sourcing to government operations, we rely heavily on technology. That said, while technology has made vast strides in the past century, some kinks still haven’t been worked out completely.
For example, security. Let’s say I can employ several security guards to protect a building from physical attack, but what about internal security? Or cyber security in this case. There’s no doubt that we have numerous software-based applications in place to protect computer systems from DDOS attacks, malicious hack attacks, virus attacks, security breaches, etc.
However, these methods are not entirely foolproof. Computer programs often run software designed to protect sensitive information; these are not invincible. But what about hardware security?
Hardware security is exactly what it sounds like – securing a physical structure designed to contain sensitive data that may give intruders access to enterprise systems. Now, the question here is how hardware security could be useful in terms of cybersecurity.
First, let’s gain some understanding of what hardware security entails.

Hardware security can be defined as a tangible barrier created to protect data from foreign infiltrators.

Typically, a hardware security system is installed directly on the hardware of the computer that contains sensitive information and, therefore, must be protected.
Some of the most common examples of hardware security are hardware firewalls, scanning devices, proxy servers, etc. There are a few distinctive modes of hardware security that are hardly discussed. One such method is a hardware security module.
A hardware security module (HSM) contains cryptographic keys for functions such as encryption, decryption, and authentication of user identities. This is a relatively rare method used for cybersecurity, but it has been gaining popularity lately due to its effectiveness.
Hardware security modules have proven to be a more promising way of protecting data and shielding systems from cyberattacks.

Benefits of Using hardware security against cyberattacks

According to a whitepaper published by Intel, wherein they pay special attention to the importance of shifting from software to hardware for network security, “cybersecurity has become part of the business landscape as both a political and financial issue as much as a technical one.”

Before delving into how HSM can help enhance cybersecurity, let’s go through some of the most significant advantages of using hardware security.

The first and foremost benefit of using hardware for cybersecurity is that it’s not as accessible as software. The premise of hardware security is the same as software – security protocol is built into the hardware itself.
There are three primary reasons why building security into hardware is better – less accessibility, not being as commonly understood as software, and hardware attackers having to be highly skilled and experienced hackers.
Some of the more advanced and essential advantages of hardware for cyber security are as follows:

  • Sense of security about the authentication of the end-user devices. Hardware security reduces the need for creating more layers of protection that may be extremely prone to exploitation.

  • Understanding hardware and how security is built into it is a highly technical task and cannot be performed by mere novices or even seasoned attackers in some cases.

  • If the hardware isn’t accessible, the attacker will not be able to understand the security system.

  • The attack surface layer of hardware is considerably more minimal, shrinking the possibility of a successful attack.

What is a HSM?

A Hardware Security Module is a physical device developed explicitly to perform cryptographic tasks like encryption, decryption, authentication, and key management. The sole purpose of an HSM device is to protect sensitive cryptographic data from falling into the wrong hands.

HSM devices are programmed to provide very limited and controlled access to authorized networks or users. These users and networks are only allowed to access the contents of the device if they can provide the right credentials for identity verification and a certain key.

A Hardware Security Module is a physical device developed explicitly to perform cryptographic tasks like encryption, decryption, authentication, and key management. The sole purpose of an HSM device is to protect sensitive cryptographic data from falling into the wrong hands.

HSM devices are programmed to provide very limited and controlled access to authorized networks or users. These users and networks are only allowed to access the contents of the device if they can provide the right credentials for identity verification and a certain key.

It’s nearly futile to try to tamper with HSM devices because of the rigidity of their operating systems and vigilant verification protocol.

Highly effective hardware security modules are often built on the principle of not trusting anyone enough to give access to them. This is called the zero-trust security module.

As per the zero-trust security module, the HSM device will not trust users and networks trying to access data from both the inside and the outside of an organization. This means that identity verification will be required at each step along the way, and no entity will be given an advantage over the other.

The main implication of a zero-trust security module is data security. Naturally, this comes with the intention of keeping hackers out in all possible scenarios. As an additional layer of protection, the data is encrypted. This implies that even if there is a foreign entity in the system, they won’t be able to read the data.

Furthermore, multi-factor authentication only gives access to users and networks based on factors like location, device, permission, IP address, etc.

Final Take Away

To put it simply, hardware security is a method of ensuring data privacy among the members of an organization. The work that goes into building security into hardware is extensive but nothing less than competent. It can save you from the hassle of adding countless layers of software-based protection that are not nearly as effective as a hardware security module device could be.