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Security software, hardware vendors eyeing device market

Sep 26, 2005 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Increasingly smart, well-connected devices pose growing security threats, according to an in-depth editorial at CIO Insight. Author Evan Schuman notes that McAfee has launched an anti-virus product aimed at POS (point-of-sales/service) devices, and that any Internet-connected device — including printers, smartphones, and VoIP phones — represents a potential security threat.

Schuman says McAfee created its anti-virus POS software at the request of VeriFone, which wanted to take a pro-active approach to security, even though few if any viruses to date have targeted its POS systems. Such an approach makes sense, Schuman writes, given that POS devices have evolved from simple electronic cash registers into distributed networks interacting with a wide range of mission-critical enterprise systems.

In addition to POS systems, Schuman discusses the threat posed by wireless devices such as PDAs and smartphones. Less than a percent of such devices enjoy any security protection at all, he says, yet they routinely exchange data with PCs during the synchronization process.

In a recent report on emerging threats, McAfee competitor Symantec noted several threats to Windows-based mobile devices and POS systems, including the WinCE4.Dust virus. Additionally, ATM machines based on Windows XP Embedded were targeted by a worm last year, causing the Global ATM Security Alliance to issue security guidelines.

Hardware vendors, as well as software vendors, stand to profit from the growing need to protect embedded systems of all kinds, Schuman says. For example, he says the San Diego Zoo puts its POS systems behind a firewall appliance, because they are wireless-enabled and interact with back-office systems.

Linux already powers a number of tiny security appliance devices aimed at POS and industrial control, including Innominate's tiny mGuard (pictured at right), CyberGuard's (formerly SnapGear's) uClinux firewall PCI card, and others.

The CIO Insight article can be found here.

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