Hackernoon logoPhysical Cybersecurity: Advanced Methods by@vasiliy-ivanov

Physical Cybersecurity: Advanced Methods

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@vasiliy-ivanovVasiliy Ivanov

The founder and CEO of a KeepSolid, a company that builds modern security and productivity solutions

Over the past few decades, as our lives have moved increasingly on to the internet, most web users have come to be familiar with online security processes--and to fear  virtual security breaches. Real stories of stolen personal data (such as the Marriott data breach that affected 500 million customers), and cautionary tales in movies and on TV, have helped create the image of the all-powerful hacker who can penetrate the most well-guarded online accounts. 

Fortunately, there are several security measures that can effectively block hackers. Every Internet user has access to a range of protective tools, from traditional antivirus software or firewalls to more sophisticated solutions, such as  Virtual Private Networks (or “VPNs”), end-to-end encryption, or a combination of these protections. 

However, while these security measures can protect you from attacks that come over an online network, your physical device is still vulnerable. And as more web users access the internet from mobile devices, the risk of your device getting stolen--and your data being accessed through your phone--is also on the rise.  

New state-of-the-art technologies are emerging to keep devices--and their data--safer. Here are four key solutions: . 

Multifactor authentication and 2FA 

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a method of access control that grants a user access to a device or service only after they present at least two) unrelated pieces of evidence to verify their identity. As a rule, those pieces of evidence are from the following categories:

·         something you know, such as a password, an answer to a security question, or a  PIN;

·         something you have, for example, an SMS, security token, or a CVV on your credit card; 

·         something you are, like your fingerprint, a facial recognition image of your face, your iris print, or other biometrics; and sometimes

·         where you are, as determined by your IP address or GPS coordinates).

2FA, or two-factor authentication, is a subset of multi-factor authentication that requires only two pieces of evidence. Usually this means that apart from your password, you are expected to enter a code from a text or voice message you receive, or enter data from a  software token.

Though multifactor authentication is clearly more secure, 2FA is significantly easier and more convenient to use, as well as more cost-effective for individuals and organizations. 

Hardware security

Mobile devices also have special hardware security modules--tamper-resistant components that securely generate, store and use pairs of coded “keys.” To do this, they rely on secure cryptoprocessors that are embedded in packaging that has physical security measures. The most widely used type of cryptoprocessors are smartcards--credit card-sized electronic authorization devices that provide personal identification, authentication, data storage, and application processing.

You may be less familiar with hardware security modules, and for good reason: They’re often hidden inside the devices that deliver smart home, smart TV, connected transport, and healthcare services. However, at least one type of smartcard is well-known to almost everyone: The SIM card that’s inside your mobile phone.  

Self-destructive systems

In principle, multi- or two-factor authentication processes and smartcards provide near-total protection for your mobile device. But there’s always a risk that someone may force you to unblock your device and show others its content. We’re not talking about  gangsters from Hollywood blockbusters: You may be asked to show the information that’s on your smartphone when you cross a border, or by law enforcement officials. . In these situations, it’s crucial to have a quick and easy way to delete all information from your device. The most common solutions to this problem are the following:

Remote data deletion: Remote deletion software lets you  wipe the data from your device remotely, using a one-time code or another similar method. This can be especially helpful if your device was stolen or if you’re being forced by someone to unlock your phone against your will.

Self-destruct timers: These applications can be set up to delete all data that’s stored on your device after a certain time elapses, or at a certain time of the day. This feature is popular in messaging apps, allowing users to set a specific time after which their messages will disappear, ensuring extra privacy. However, if you’re using a self-destruct timer, it’s crucial to have the ability to deactivate it at any time.

Self-destruct PIN: A simpler solution is to create a specific “poison PIN” on your device that can be set to delete applications, clear contact lists, temporarily hard-lock the device, and carry out other actions that protect your phone’s data from unwanted access. 

Duress mode

In standard security systems, a “duress mode” is designed to alert the system administrator about a hacking attempt by enabling a specific code to be entered. This allows sensitive information to be hidden in cases of forced access, and notifies system administrators so they can respond to the attack. But individual phone users can’t usually rely on external help. To solve this problem, a new type of the duress mode has been introduced to automatically protect users when they enter a specific code. Unlike self-destructive systems, data isn’t deleted when duress mode is activated. Instead, it’s “masked” with non-sensitive information. For anyone who’s trying to access the device, this creates the impression that the content is still on the phone, while concealing important data without wiping it from the device.

Bringing it all together

These new security approaches offer truly comprehensive protection for any device, at both the software and hardware level--giving you the confidence you need to stay one step ahead of hackers and intruders. By using one or more of these methods, you can find the right balance between staying protected and easily using your device, at an affordable price..

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@vasiliy-ivanovVasiliy Ivanov

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The founder and CEO of a KeepSolid, a company that builds modern security and productivity solutions

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