Current RTOS Security Issues

July 28th, 2017 by

A real-time operating system communicates between hardware and software applications in real time to offer precise results within a predetermined period. They are designed to support rich development features and real-time deployment of applications without compromising on predictability and deadlines. RTOSs are strict and event driven; they must respond to events or interruptions immediately as they occur.


However, connecting your system to a system that receives commands and controls parameters makes it vulnerable to cyberattacks and issues such as:

1. Code injection

Code injection is the most common and dangerous cyberattack. It is implemented by feeding and running arbitrary codes on a computer or real-time operating system. The attackers aim to get control of your program and change its command flow as well as trigger the program to execute malicious codes.

2.Exploiting shared memory

Some RTOSs lack memory management units. They rely on a flat shared memory unit to interchange communication. The message sharing platform is like a board where people write messages and their replies. If the wrong person gets to the message and alters it before the right person reads it, it would result in a system crash. That is how unmanaged shared memory threatens your system’s security.

3. Priority inversion

The real-time operating system is designed to process certain jobs simultaneously. In some cases, the jobs may have to share resources such as I/O or memory. Limited resources within the system cannot be shared. Therefore, the processes deemed important are prioritized and sometimes force a context switch with low priority processes. Also, an ongoing process blocks the shared memory and cannot be interrupted while processing. That means that other process cannot access the memory, and if they did an inconsistency would occur.

4. Denial of service attacks

Denial of service (DOS) occurs when a part of the system takes up shared resources so that other parts fail to operate normally. For example, if one program takes up more memory, it denies other programs their required memory amount; or if a program hangs an endless loop, other programs lack adequate CPU time.

5. Attacking inter-process communication

A real-time operating system relies on messaging queues to transfer information. Most RTOSs lack protocol to ensure that messages are from safe and legitimate sources. As long as the messages are delivered via a valid handle, they will be implemented.

A real-time operating system accelerates your development schedules and makes working more efficient. As with any technology, however, it is critical to ensure that all security gaps are sealed before an attack hinders your operations.


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