Electronic Design

Encryption, Security Becoming Critical In Embedded Devices

After attaching an embedded device to a network, you'll find that it requires a network adapter and a protocol stack. Connect that same device to the Internet, and it will need to be secure. Encryption techniques are the basis for security mechanisms. As a result, encryption software is quickly finding its way into embedded devices. Encryption also is computationally intensive, so encryption hardware is moving into embedded devices as well.

Encryption can be implemented to hide information from prying eyes and network scanners. Yet it can also be used for authentication, including the employment of digital signatures.

At one time, a TCP/IP stack's size was a limiting factor for embedded devices with limited resources and power, such as 8- and 16-bit systems. Encryption support is the new requirement and potential limiting factor.

Unlike TCP/IP, encryption technology requirements may vary significantly. For example, longer keys might be necessary to provide sufficient security for a product, and longer keys require more performance to process.

LiveDevices includes encryption key authentication and distribution as part of its client and server components. Unfortunately, authentication systems, public key infrastructures, and encryption-related technologies are in a state of flux regarding standardization. Although standards abound, interoperability tends to be the exception rather than the norm. Like Internet middleware, encryption support is normally specific to the vendors supporting a particular platform.

At this point, buyers are cautioned when selecting encryption support. Of course, buyers should be very wary if encryption isn't part of their embedded Internet device.

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