A recent analysis from McAfee titled “Caution: Malware Ahead” suggests that the number of IP-connected devices will grow by a factor of fifty over a ten year period based on the number of IP-connected devices last year. The bulk of these devices are expected to be embedded systems. Additionally, connected devices are evolving from a one-way data communication path to a two way dialog – creating potential new opportunities for hacking embedded systems.

Consider that each Chevy Volt from General Motors has its own IP address. The Volt uses an estimated 10 million lines of code executing over approximately 100 control units, and the number of test procedures to develop the vehicle was “streamlined” from more than 600 to about 400. According to Meg Selfe at IBM, they use the IP-connection for a few things today, like finding a charging station, but they hope to use it to push more software out to the vehicles in the future.

As IP-connected appliances become more common in the home and on the industrial floor, will the process for developing and verifying embedded systems change – or is the current process sufficient to address the possible security issues of selling and supporting IP-connected systems? Is placing critical and non-critical systems on separate internal networks sufficient in light of the intent of being able to push software updates to both portions of the system? Is the current set of development tools sufficient to enable developers to test and ensure their system’s robustness from malicious attacks? Will new tools surface or will they derive from tools already used in high safety-critical application designs? Does adding an IP address to an embedded system change how we design and test them?

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