Have you been updating your firmware regularly? Is it protected with advanced measures?
Many companies may not even realize that firmware needs to be updated continuously or even why it’s such a rich target for hackers. This leaves their network security at serious risk of a breach.
A new Security Signals report from Microsoft that came out for March 2021, reported that firmware attacks have more than doubled each year for four years straight.
Additionally, within the last two years, 83% of businesses have experienced an attack on their firmware.
What do you need to do to ensure your firmware isn’t the weak link in your cybersecurity plan?
First, we’ll take a look at what firmware is, why it’s becoming a major target of cyber attackers, and how you can protect it from being breached.
What Is Firmware?
Every piece of hardware, from a computer to your television remote control, needs to have instructions for how to operate, how to allow user access, etc. The code created to give those instructions is firmware.
Computers will have different types of firmware to tell them how to operate. A couple of these are:
- BIOS, responsible for your PC booting up correctly into its operating system
- Drive firmware provides instructions for the hard disk or Solid-state drive
Firmware is a type of software, but it’s specifically for giving hardware a set of instructions for operational activities.
Does Firmware Get Updated?
Firmware does need to be updated regularly. However, it typically does not receive updates and patches as often as operating systems and software. Firmware updates are also not typically as visible as other updates. They often won’t pop up an alert, so users often overlook them.
Why Is Firmware a Popular Hacking Target?
There are a few different factors that have made firmware a particularly attractive target.
Firmware Holds a High-Level Position
Firmware is not a component of the operating system, it sits at a level above that, which makes it particularly damaging should a hacker compromise it. Because firmware provides instructions for how a device should operate, if hacked into, the attacker can take over the entire system (computer, server, security cameras, etc.).
Firmware Holds Valuable Information
Details such as administrative and user credentials will often be stored in firmware. This makes it a target that’s rich with information that hackers want and can use to breach other areas of a network.
Companies Often Lack Firmware Protection
According to that Security Signals study, despite the alarming rise in firmware attacks, most enterprises only dedicate about 29% of their IT budgets to firmware security.
It’s often left on the back burner when it comes to planning for IT security upgrades, with a larger focus being on more visible cloud and network security areas.
Firmware Lacks Visibility
Standard protections like anti-malware or advanced threat protection typically look at things in the operating system layer of your device, not in the firmware. Thus, many firmware breaches go undetected.
Much of the fault lies with the lack of visibility into firmware that comes from the manufacturer’s side. They don’t always make it easy to detect when the firmware has been breached or what may code may have been compromised.
How Can We Prevent a Breach of Device Firmware?
Look for Hardware With Firmware Protections
Due to the sharp rise in firmware attacks, manufacturers are beginning to realize they need to build better firmware protection and visibility in computers, servers, and other devices.
One of the newer lines of PCs that are designed with zero-trust security modeling for firmware protection is Microsoft’s Secure-core PCs.
Microsoft calls the Secure-core its most secure Windows PC ever. It’s designed to prevent firmware level attacks by integrating hardware-rooted security.
Keep Firmware Updated on a Schedule
It’s important to have firmware for all your devices on a regular update schedule, just like you should be doing for OS and software updates. Those updates include vital security patches that seal up newly found vulnerabilities.
One of the easiest ways to ensure your firmware is updated in a timely manner is to sign up for managed IT services so all your updates are handled professionally and on a schedule.
Train Users Regularly on Security Awareness
Attacks on firmware happen in much the same way as attacks on other parts of your system or network. Malicious code delivered via phishing email is one of the major causes. Users accidentally click over to a malicious website or open a dangerous file attachment, and the attacker’s code is released onto their system.
It’s important to keep users trained regularly and arm them with the knowledge they need for good cybersecurity hygiene. This includes training on things like:
- How to spot phishing emails
- Where else phishing can happen (e.g., social media)
- Use of strong, unique passwords
- Data handling best practices
- How to keep a device secure when unattended
- Security when connected to free or public Wi-Fi
Get Your Firmware Protection Assessed & Stay Safe!
Rocky Knoll Technologies can help your Charlotte area business with a full assessment of your firmware protection and security. We’ll let you know if you’re at risk and how to address it.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Call 704.594.7292 or reach us online.