Enterprise platform systems management security threats and mitigation techniques



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Developers and technologists of enterprise systems such as servers, storage and networking products must constantly anticipate new cybersecurity threats and evolving security requirements. These requirements are typically sourced from marketing, customer expectations, manufacturing and evolving government standards. Much ongoing major research focus has been on securing the main enterprise system purpose functionality, operating system, network and storage. There appears, however, to be far less research and a growing number of reports of vulnerabilities in the area of enterprise systems management hardware and software subsystems. Many recent examples are within types of subsystems such as baseboard management controllers (BMCs), which are intricate embedded subsystems, independent of the host server system functionality. A BMC is typically comprised of a specialized system-on-a-chip, RAM, non-volatile storage, and sensors, and runs an embedded LINUX Operating System. The BMC’s primary roles are always increasing in scope including managing system inventory, system operational health, thermal and power control, event logging, remote console access, provisioning, performance monitoring, software updates and failure prediction and remediation. To compromise or create a denial of service of such subsystems has an increasing impact on equipment manufacturers and large and small enterprises. This report’s primary objective is to research real-world and theoretical hardware and software cyber-attack vectors on enterprise product platforms, inclusive of BMCs, BIOS and other embedded systems within such products. For each presented attack vector, best practices and suggestions for effective avoidance and mitigation are explored. Domains of particular interest are physical access security, hardware manipulation and secure boot protections against software image manipulation, BIOS recovery and secure field debug techniques.