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Step forward for server security

By John Oates

The uncomfortable truth about cyber security is that the new breed of attackers are behaving like a business. They invest in research and development and in improving both the targeting and the social engineering of their attacks.

Enterprises have to innovate at a similar rate in order to stay safe.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise believes its next generation of ProLiant servers have the right innovations to make them the most secure industry standard machines available.

A key loophole for cyber attacks is firmware – the read -only software which machines rely on for their most basic functions. This is the software which is embedded into hardware and gives it the simple instructions needed to ‘boot up’.

Firmware attacks have not been common compared to other forms of malware but there is evidence that ‘proof-of-concept’ code has been created and deployed.

Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) research found that more than half of cyber security professionals reported at least one incident of malware-infected firmware in 2016.

HPE is creating a ‘digital fingerprint’ of firmware on a chip within the server. This fingerprint is checked against actual firmware installed to check it is identical when the machine boots.

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Any disparity between the fingerprint and the firmware and the machine shuts down.

Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst of technology analyst and advisory firm Moor Insights & Strategy, said: “A security breach in firmware is one of the most difficult to detect but can be one of the most damaging. Unfortunately, firmware is often overlooked in c-suite conversations about data center security, and cyber criminals are targeting this as a new attack surface. While many servers have some level of hardware security already

built-in, HPE is creating firmware security inextricably tied with its custom made silicon, to help customers protect against these malicious attacks.”

The stored firmware is also available as a back-up if needed.

Together with broader breach detection and encryption the system is a step forward in strengthening enterprise security.

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