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Embedded security envelops entire protocol stack

Posted: 18 Oct 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:security? it? network? communication? ipsec?

In decades past, communication security was the province of two widely separated domains. The task of authenticating users and ensuring security of the network channel was relegated to the network IT manager, and often was dependent, at least in part, on the secure services of a mainframe or minicomputer operating system. At the level of the individual message, security was dependent on the strength of the cryptographic system chosen for encrypting the data transmitted from sender to receiver.

The 1970s and 1980s saw major improvements in message encryption, as users expanded from the private-key Data Encryption Standard to public-key alternatives like Rivest-Shamir-Adelman (RSA). With the advent of distributed client-server architectures in the 1990s, top-down security got some much-needed improvements, thanks to easy-to-use firewall software and authentication/authorization applications.

The two domains began to intersect early in the 21st century, as the newest generation of security processors augmented a simple focus on cryptography, to add now-mandatory functions such as secure hashing, L2 and L3 virtual private networks (VPN), IPSec advanced header support and SSL transaction processing. Today, it is the rare WAN access device that does not offer embedded support for SSL and IPSec, at least in firmware on a dedicated processor.

The new capabilities in hardware are sparking a drive to look at embedded security as an end-to-end function, rather than as a hardware assist that eases manual IT management.

In this In Focus section, developers look at what end-to-end security means. They consider the latest information on profiles for end-user devices for mobile and wireless computing; the use of IP layers and TCP session layers in creating VPNs for wireless networks; and the impact on security processors as advanced services, such as intrusion detection, move to the edge of the public network. Wi-Fi's WEP protocol and the Bluetooth security protocols are also put under the microscope, while in more specialized domains we discuss how spammers can beat advanced security filters.

- Loring Wirbel

EE Times

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