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Firewalls Everywhere

We recently heard Netronome’s view on next-generation firewalls, and in particular, how they are migrating from the more traditional boundary protection to be distributed throughout compute farms on each rack.

Well, it goes beyond that, at least in Icon Labs’ view; I talked with them at ESC (or Design West, or ESC, a subsidiary of Design West). They point out the fact that embedded systems are all becoming hackable, with a few interesting examples:

–          Apparently if you send the right text message to the right phone number, you can defeat a car’s anti-theft mechanism and drive off with it. (“Dude, where’s my car??” “Oops, sorry, wrong number…”)

–          If you hack a printer, you can steal the images stored in memory.

–          Pacemakers have been successfully hacked in the lab.

So they see small, embeddable firewalls as critical to closing off these unexpected intrusions.  They need to be incorporated at the lowest possible levels in communications stacks, and they need to be worked into safety-critical standards. From a size standpoint, we are talking small: they target Zilog 8-bit MCUs, with 10-12K of ROM and 40K of RAM.

Whoever would have thought that 8-bit MCUs would be running firewalls…

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