Rohini Narasipur

Product security engineer and incident handler, Bosch PSIRT

With more than 9 years of experience in software development and 4 years in the field of Embedded systems Security in industries like medical devices, IoT and Automotive, Rohini has found her passion in securing embedded systems in a way that they are not only secure against the latest network based exploits but are secure against hardware or physical exploits.


Practical physical attacks against embedded systems and their secure design to mitigate them.

Increasing number of embedded devices are being connected to the network for reasons such as remote servicing, upgrading the firmware over the air or to enable communication between them. Connecting embedded devices to network exposes them to a plethora of attacks such as DDoS, injection of crafted packets, web based attacks and eavesdropping, among others. These attacks can be launched via remote interfaces. Physical access to the device also can potentially expose them to critical attacks that could lead to cryptographic keys being exposed. Most of these attacks have not been exploited in the wild. Impact of such attacks include either partially or completely bypassing a security feature. This could lead to arbitrary code execution on the device or extraction of long term keys that would not only compromise the device’s cryptographic operations but also an entire family of devices in some cases where the same key is used for protecting entire generation of devices.

Reverse engineering is an effective process to acquire more knowledge on the specimen under attack. Reverse engineering a firmware and an Integrated Circuit (IC) could reveal details about the architecture, structure, design and functionality of an embedded device. An attacker could use this to potentially discover vulnerabilities or plagiarize Intellectual property. Side-channel attacks are exploitation of design/implementation level issues that could potentially leak sensitive information from the embedded device. This talk also discusses another form of side-channel attack known as fault injection. Supply chain attacks are another form of physical attack that involves inserting hardware Trojans into the 3rd party component, which in turn gets integrated into a System on chip (SoC) as a functional block. In recent years, semi-invasive physical attacks based on optical debugging techniques have proven to be capable of revealing sensitive information stored in a device. Lastly, the talk looks at certain flaws in the design of embedded devices that could potentially lead to bypass of security features.

Physical attacks on embedded devices require physical access to the target. Many research entities are engaging themselves in finding new vulnerabilities, attack vectors and their potential impact if exploited. Several types of physical attacks are gaining popularity among the research community. These include reverse engineering, side channel attacks such as fault injection and differential power analysis, supply chain attacks, optical attacks and design flow attacks. This paper discusses practical attacks from different researchers and potential secure design suggestions to prevent such attacks.

In 2019, NTT, Intel, and Sony established the Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) Global Forum to create next-generation technology and bring in a wide variety of companies to drive innovations in computing, communications, and network infrastructure, and create a smart world. Cybersecurity is one of the key areas that the Forum focuses on. Such a technology will be helpful for both 5G and beyond 5G.

Furthermore, Japan, Australia, and the US unveiled the Blue Dot Network in 2019. They take a multi-stakeholder initiative to evaluate and certify nominated infrastructure projects based upon adherence to commonly accepted principles and standards to promote market-driven, transparent, and financially sustainable infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world.

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