Apple and Serious Security: NOT an Oxymoron

Cryptographic Processor Has Utility Well Beyond Apple Pay

by Bruce Kleinman, FSVadvisors

I know most of you read the first few words of the title up to the colon and thought, “Oh jeez, he’s back on his Serious Security Soapbox and using the Apple celebrity photo hack as a cautionary tale.” Hardly. And lest anyone think I’ve been hard on Apple of late vis-à-vis their eponymous smart watch, I am going to build a veritable security fortress using the iPhone 6.

Let’s start with backup, as in backing up your data, as in that REALLY important thing that most people cannot be bothered with. I’ve taken backup VERY seriously since WAY back for the purely practical reason that storage media weren’t at all reliable:

  • I started backing up paper tape the first time one of my programs was shredded by a jam in the tape reader
  • I started backing up tape storage the first time one of my tape cartridges unspooled
  • I started backing up floppies the first time I left one on top of the monitor, which at the time were things called “cathode ray tubes” that emitted magnetic fields
  • I started backing up hard drives immediately, because those early 10 MB [sic] units experienced head crashes if you sneezed in their vicinity
 

Are You an Android or a Robot?

Business Models Collide, Over and Over Again

by Jim Turley

There’s an old saying that programming is – ahem – like practicing the world’s oldest profession. In both cases, there is no inventory, no fixed overhead costs, and no actual goods sold. Instead, the “product” is really a service. Both depreciate rapidly and both are labor-intensive. Most of all, practitioners get to sell their product to one customer and then sell it again to somebody else. With no cost-of-goods-sold (COGS), every sale should be pure profit, right? And yet, people in neither profession ever seem to get rich. What’s wrong with that business model?

I can’t tell if Android is doing really well or if it’s heading into a downward spiral. On one hand, Android has taken the embedded world by storm, powering all sorts of new devices. What could be better than a free operating system, and one packed with features, too? And open source? With lots of support? Sign me up!

 

Overvoltage Protection in High Speed Communication Ports

by Ian Doyle, ProTek Devices

Editor's Note: While Amelia's Halloween Fish Fry had us all running out and gleefully building our own singing Tesla coils, and even though shuffling quietly across the carpet and sending a bright 10,000-volt arc from your fingertip to a napping family member can be a barrel of laughs, there are times where we most definitely do not find electrostatic discharge so amusing. The first of those, of course, is when we ARE the sleeping family member. Sheesh, what an insensitive prank!

But, a second scenario where we do not welcome the effect of high-voltage static discharge events is when we're designing high-speed communications circuits. Getting your Ethernet port zapped with a 10kV ESD is far from fun - especially for the Ethernet port. But, how do we help our circuits protect themselves? Ian Doyle of ProTek devices has some very helpful suggestions.

--Kevin Morris, Editor-in-Chief

Transmission data rates continue to grow and grow to meet consumer demands for multimedia rich content, such as streaming video. In turn, whether in the home or at the backend, Ethernet connectivity also continues its widespread use. As a result, and more than ever, electrostatic discharge (ESD) transient threats pose challenges to system designers to incorporate overvoltage protection that doesn’t impact performance.

 

A New IoT Cellular Network

SIGFOX Is Installing Cells in Europe and Beyond

by Bryon Moyer

It’s not every day that a major infrastructure build-out happens.

Imagine that you wanted to switch from your current cable provider, but you wanted to stay with cable technology. The only way you could do that (other than finding some reseller that leverages the cable you’re trying to escape) would be for a competing company to come dig up your town and install a whole new parallel network. Yeah, not likely to happen. (Which is why the incumbent cable companies can act like the monopolies they are.)

Similarly with cell networks, although slightly less so. Here in the US, we started with two providers per geography. Obviously, we have grown beyond that by now, and yet, for the most part, US coverage is dominated by two companies. Others, like Metro PCS, have cherry-picked markets and users, limiting their build-out. But the prospect of a completely new cell provider installing a completely new network to compete with the entrenched big guys seems exceedingly unlikely.

 

Making Tesla Proud

OneTesla Makes Your (Singing) Tesla Coil Dreams Come True

by Amelia Dalton

It’s creepy! It’s crawly. It occasionally has scales! It’s Amelia’s Weekly Fish Fry! This week we are celebrating one of the coolest (and one might say, creepiest) scientists, electrical engineers, and visionaries the world has ever seen -- Nikola Tesla. My guest this week is physicist Heidi Baumgartner. She can run a nuclear reactor, she can teach soldering, and most importantly for today’s broadcast, she is one of the founders of OneTesla. Heidi is here to explain exactly how you can build your very own singing Tesla coil, how she became involved with OneTesla, and what it's like to vacation at Chernobyl. Also this week, we check out why 8-bit shouldn’t be thrown out like last year’s Halloween candy.

 

I Brick Your Chip

Driver Update Disables Counterfeit Chips

by Jim Turley

It sounds like something out of a spy thriller. A piece of security software, masquerading as a routine driver update, sniffs out enemy chips and terminates them with extreme prejudice. There is no fix; the chip, and everything it’s connected to, is bricked.

Sneaky, huh? And not really all that hard to implement. With nearly everything connected “to the cloud,” it’s easy to insert new software remotely. And we’re all accustomed to downloading and installing new drivers every few weeks, so there’s nothing suspicious that would tip anyone off.

Except…

The case this week involves FTDI, a company that makes popular and inexpensive USB-interface chips. You’ve probably got one inside some device nearby, or you’ve used FTDI chips in your own designs.


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