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How hardware impacts cyber security

By Zac Amos, Features Editor, Rehack.com.

Cyber security has been an important topic for over two decades, but as data breaches continue to grow, it’s now at the forefront of high-level corporate agendas. But while many company security measures and initiatives focus on the important dangers of phishing, ransomware, and insider threats, another lesser-known way cyber criminals can infiltrate a network is by going after hardware.

When creating a strong cyber security strategy, do not neglect company hardware. The physical components that constitute a PC can be a saving grace or can leave the computer open to future problems.

Why unchecked hardware causes security problems

Unchecked hardware — hardware that isn’t consistently monitored or upgraded — can cause headaches for the owner and the IT department when a cyber attack strikes. Faulty processors, poorly designed hardware and outdated equipment can leave your organization vulnerable to cyber attacks and can severely hamper any response.

Anti-virus and anti-malware programs help significantly by providing 24-hour monitoring and security alerts, but the equipment these programs run on also has to be reliable. Leaving hardware unchecked opens the door for hackers.

Common hardware vulnerabilities

Along with creating an easier path for cyber attackers, hardware failures are also a significant problem for companies because of how much time they take away from the workday. Productivity suffers because of issues with a device’s electronic components. Some of the most common hardware vulnerabilities include:

  • Hard disks: One of the most common factors leading to hardware failure is a malfunction with a hard disk. These storage devices, also known as hard drives, cause about 80% of all hardware failures. Hard disks are delicate pieces of technology, so they’re vulnerable to physical damage. The owner may harm the disk by dropping it or via any other mishap. Keeping a hard disk in perfect condition is challenging because they naturally degrade over time. However, it’s essential to maintain hard disks to ensure that your data is properly stored and backed up.
  • Power: If it’s not the hardware itself, the problem may lie with the power source. An inconsistent power supply can damage components within the hardware and risk failure. For example, it could encounter electrostatic discharge (ESD). ESD happens when a high electrostatic field causes a spontaneous transfer of an electrostatic charge — hardware’s equivalent of a human getting a static shock from an object. However, these events can harm electronics, making them further vulnerable to attacks.
  • People: People are essential for your business to function, but they can also be the reason as to why hardware fails. They may unintentionally harm a computer, perhaps by spilling their beverage or dropping important equipment; or they could cause purposeful harm, perhaps by knowingly downloading attachments with malware or intentionally sabotaging equipment.

How to mitigate hardware threats

In today’s world, maintaining hardware components is essential for keeping up with cyber security at home or in the workplace. Doing routine checks and staying up-to-date with trends can go a long way in saving time, hassle, and money. These are some ways to be proactive and to mitigate hardware threats:

  • Do a cyber security audit: Cyber attacks can come from many different fronts nowadays, so hiring a professional to do an audit could be helpful. In the audit, the IT expert will review all of your hardware and look for vulnerabilities. They’ll suggest ways to better the security to ensure the hardware and software are capable of withstanding attacks.
  • Update hardware: One suggestion the auditor may give is to upgrade the hardware. Outdated hardware is typically unable to install security patches, opening up vulnerabilities to outside hackers. Tech companies cease supporting older pieces of hardware over time, leaving users more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
  • Keep software updated: A task as simple as keeping software and firmware updated can go a long way in ensuring cybersecurity safety for all. Regularly updating software can keep hardware running faster, increase productivity, protect data, and keep backdoors closed to hackers. Software patches often come with security updates to protect against hackers.

Protecting hardware in today’s digital age

Cyber security can be a complex subject to tackle. Hackers have become more adept at infiltrating systems because they continually experiment with ways to exploit back doors and vulnerabilities. While cyber security strategies frequently focus on preventing software vulnerabilities, hardware also needs to be a priority.

In addition to cyber attacks, other elements at home or in an office can harm hardware components: damaged hard disks, faulty power supply and human error, both intentional and unintentional, can all present challenges. Upgrading hardware along with updating software is crucial to protecting computer systems and IT networks from cyber criminals.

For more from Rehack.com Features Editor, Zac Amos, please click here. Lastly, to receive cutting-edge cyber security news, exclusive interviews, expert analyses and security resources, please sign up for the CyberTalk.org newsletter.

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