The 10 most critical cyber threats to your products

In today's digital landscape, microcontrollers are essential for many devices we use every day. But, with great connectivity comes great vulnerability. Explore how to safeguard your devices effectively by equipping yourself with practical insights to navigate the evolving cyber landscape confidently.

Microcontrollers are everywhere

From smart home devices and automobiles to medical equipment and industrial machinery, microcontrollers are integral to our everyday lives. These compact yet essential components drive modern technology, infusing it with the intelligence and functionality that define our interconnected world. Microcontrollers are the reason why your AirTag can locate your wallet, why your car can assist with parking, and why automated production lines work seamlessly. According to statistics, over 28 billion microcontroller units (MCUs) were shipped globally in 2021, and this number is expected to rise to 38 billion by 2027.

The role of embedded software

One key factor driving the popularity of microcontrollers in product development is their cost-effectiveness compared to dedicated electronics. Their adaptability, enabled by embedded software, is a significant advantage, allowing for modifications through software updates without the need for expensive product overhauls. The flexibility of MCUs extends product lifespans and enables continual capability enhancements through cost-efficient embedded software updates. This not only benefits manufacturers but also ensures that consumers enjoy products that evolve to meet their changing needs.

The reality of cyber threats

While the flexibility of microcontrollers is the basis for so many products in our daily lives – it also introduces potential risks for users, developers, and society as a whole. Especially due to the increasing connectivity, electronic devices have become vulnerable and potential targets for cyberattacks. The threats for embedded devices without robust security measures are manifold, but these are the 10 most critical cyber threats:

1 Unauthorized access
Enables malicious actors to gain control of the device or steal sensitive data.

2 Data breaches
Expose sensitive information of users or organizations to potential theft or misuse.

3 Malware and ransomware
Disrupt the functionality of internet-connected devices and make them subject to ransom payment demands.

4 Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks
Overwhelm the device with traffic, causing it to become unresponsive or unavailable.

5 Firmware tampering
Allows attackers to modify the software to inject malicious code or alter the device’s behavior.

6 Lack of encryption
It allows for the intercept and reading of data transmitted between embedded devices and other systems, putting data integrity and privacy at risk.

7 Insecure software updates
Inadequately secured mechanisms could allow attackers to compromise the software update process, potentially distributing malicious code to all connected devices.

8 Physical attacks
Hardware tampering is especially dangerous for embedded devices in critical systems if their security measures do not protect against such threats.

9 Supply chain vulnerabilities
Allow malicious components or firmware to be inserted, which could compromise the security of embedded systems before they even reach end-users.

10 Lack of patch management
Failure to update and patch embedded devices regularly leaves them vulnerable to known security vulnerabilities.

Each of these threats jeopardizes your product and poses risks to your entire business. When MCUs are exploited, and the resulting issues can have far-reaching impacts on OEMs. 

Safeguarding your products is possible

The good news is that many existing security techniques used to protect the Internet, financial transactions, and secure communication systems can also be applied to safeguard products, including microcontrollers. You do not have to be an expert in embedded security or encryption to add security features to your devices.

Protect your most valuable assets the simple way

At IAR, we specialize in helping you incorporate a customizable level of security into your microcontroller-based products. Our user-friendly development tools and proven methodologies aim at “Security Made Simple,” and we also assist you with secure production capabilities.

IAR eBook on Embedded Security

Grasp the complexities of embedded security

Discover the essential guide to Embedded Security in the digital age with the IAR eBook "The Foundations of Embedded Security: Navigating Threats and Solutions in the Digital Era". Written for professionals of all levels, this comprehensive eBook provides invaluable insights and practical solutions to navigate the evolving landscape of cyber threats. Whether you're a security expert, software developer, or business leader, this resource equips you with the knowledge to fortify your defenses and stay ahead in today's fast-paced digital world.

Download your copy now and learn how to tackle cybersecurity challenges effectively.



Rafael Taubinger
Rafael Taubinger
Global Product Marketing Manager at IAR
Rafael Taubinger has over 20 years of experience in the embedded industry, whereof many of them at IAR. He specializes in C/C++ programming for microcontrollers and has conducted extensive technical training on various technical subjects related to embedded development and security across the US, Latin America, and Europe. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an M.B.A. in Business Management.