Embedded systems, smartphones, and tablets haven't gone through this same level of standardization, so viruses and malware don't spread as easily across them. However, adoption has slowed, and these distinct differences also make applications that run consistently across most of them an exception rather than a rule. When you move to embedded systems, the differences and related problems with consistency and ease of use go vertical, and so does the relative cost of the solution. But Intel and others are attempting to bring the same kind of commonality and network connectivity to these new classes; as they do that, the same kind of exposures will result.
The problems initially will most likely center around access and causing a system to crash. But as consistency spreads, the opportunity to remotely take control of the product, remove critical information from it, or to become a host for spreading malware becomes far greater. And if this isn't addressed directly at the start, the cost and usability improvements being contemplated could result in catastrophes we likely can't yet really imagine.
During the past several years, McAfee has been acquiring technology in anticipation of this trend and actually has a credible set of tools targeting these new product areas. These tools, and the security expertise of the McAfee employees, are what Intel was focused on -- not specifically the AV technology. However, this should serve as a warning to the other vendors looking at this new space that if they don't build in security at the start, the next BP-like disaster could have your corporate brand on it -- and the result could be both company and career-limiting.
Your career, your life, and the lives of your loved ones could depend on someone thinking through today the security exposures of the future and doing something about them. Something to ponder this week.
-- Rob Enderle is president and founder of Enderle Group. Special to Dark Reading.