Who's Watching Out for the Machines?

It seems every day now we need to watch our backs for an invisible threat. This threat lurks within just about every part of our lives today. It seeks to steal our personal dossier for the purposes of robbing us. It seeks to move digital currency from our pockets to theirs. Or in the case of state(less) sponsored characters, it seeks to disrupt and destroy. It is pervasive and unrelenting.

We pay attention to this now because it’s personal. We shred documents. We regularly change passwords. Our eyes are now trained to look out for shiny phishing email hooks. Protection software is installed on all our devices. But that brief respite of feeling secure after you turn off your phone is now no longer, I hear, as the Amsterdam-based security firm AVG announced it has discovered new malware that tricks users into thinking their phone is turned off, and then goes to work rummaging around in it. It is yet another invisible lurking threat. Word of caution: Don’t root your phone.

Unfortunately, today, with our daily life activities becoming more distributed, networked and shared, we have to entrust critical identifying details and our connected devices to just about everybody we do business with.

So who’s watching out for the machines?

Embedded controls are pervasive across GE businesses. They represent billions of dollars in assets, not to mention the critical infrastructure these computing machines control. Military and industrial controls use a lot of the same underlying computing technology. And many of them are now connected to networks or are accessible offline to multiple operators. The threat is real in both cases—and perhaps from the same threat.

GE’s Intelligent Platforms business now builds security capabilities into embedded computing products to support mission computing information assurance and anti-tamper capabilities. This technology is at the heart of the machine and enables our military customers to install hardened walls of security. It gives system designers the ability to assure information integrity and manage risks related to the use, processing, storage, and transmission of information within embedded systems.

We deliver this capability across a number of embedded computing elements, including component anti-tamper (AT) features, physical AT materials, silicon-trusted execution capabilities, secure FPGA technology, specific AT software, encryption and board-level design features.  This forms a Root of Trust from which to build an IA/AT computing solution toward certification.

At the board level, GE has added an FPGA security hub to its designs, providing mechanisms to interconnect AT features and permit customers to specialize the designs for unique and/or program-specific requirements.

There is significant investment and activity around this issue here at GE. We partner with GE Global Research and other business units to advance the entire assurance picture for embedded computing. And we help our customers watch out for the machines.

David French

David is the Director of Business Development for aviation programs for Abaco Systems. He started out his career as a design and systems engineer for space platforms and launch vehicle avionics. Impatient with the sometimes slow pace of new development opportunity there, he directed his energy toward the broader embedded computing universe from telecommunications infrastructure to defense electronics. He still marvels at the challenge and discovery in applied science and technology.

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