There is no such thing as perfect security. Passwords can be cracked, users’ access information phished, and malicious software installed via email attachments and USB thumb drives. Security challenges are especially tough when working with industrial computers (IPC), which often run unattended in publicly-accessible spaces like hospitals, shop floors and meeting venues. One way to help ensure security in these unique environments is to deploy IPCs equipped with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) hardware integrated directly onto the system motherboard.
What is a Trusted Platform Module (TPM)?
TPM employs a specialized chip that stores protected key information in a tamper-proof medium to authenticate host system hardware. The chip includes a unique Endorsement Key that is baked into the module at manufacture – like a digital fingerprint – to establish the trustworthiness of data and applications. Importantly, this cross-platform solution engages at the lowest level of system operation, protecting against unauthorized firmware and software modifications that can undermine system integrity.
Utilization of a Trusted Platform Module boosts the value of solutions like whole disk encryption, which scrambles information stored on PC hard drives to render it unreadable to unauthorized parties. Windows BitLocker disk encryption, for instance, leverages TPM to ensure that initial system boot files are verified authentic and unmodified before disk data is decrypted for access.
The Security Risks Of Industrial Computers
Widely deployed in data-sensitive industries like financial services and health care, TPM addresses security risks common to rugged, remote and industrial environments. For instance:
- Remote systems may not be frequently attended, either by users or IT staff, increasing the risk of compromised hardware.
- Industrial computers deployed in public or open areas can be tampered with by passers by, including the use of USB flash drives to install malicious software.
- Theft is a serious risk in many industrial scenarios. TPM hardens systems against intrusion, even in instances where the system has fallen into attackers’ hands.
IT managers deploying industrial computers rightly focus on issues that impact systems in rugged and industrial environments. Fanless cooling, ventless cases, and rugged designs are all vital considerations. But in an increasingly threat-prone environment, data security simply can not be ignored. By deploying TPM-enabled industrial computers, organizations gain a vital level of assurance, even in cases where hardware has the potential to be stolen or tampered with.
Learn more updates in security since this article was written in our overview of Intel Platform Trust Technology (PTT): TPM for the Masses. And if you have more questions about security for your project, contact our technical sales team.
Note: This article was originally written on January 31, 2017. It was updated for content on July 7th, 2021.