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HP Labs security research steps up to deal with a shifting threat landscape

By Simon Firth, HP Labs Correspondent — November 28, 2016

Simon Shiu, Head of HP's Security Lab

Simon Shiu, Head of HP's Security Lab

The modern IT threat landscape is shifting as malicious actors look to take advantage of changes in where we’re placing compute power. Increasingly, processing power is located at the edge of networks in “endpoint” devices, notes Simon Shiu, head of HP’s Security Lab. 

“Endpoint devices now include all printers – home, commercial, and 3D – as well as interactive displays and sensor-equipped devices that are part of the Internet of Things,” Shiu explains. “And more and more we’re seeing threats aimed directly at these network edge points where people are creating, consuming, and sharing information.”

That’s of particular import to HP, a major supplier of both endpoint devices and the infrastructures and ecosystems that support them, and it informs current security research at HP Labs into next generation security architecture and defenses for endpoints and associated eco-systems.

In our eyes, endpoints are a critical part of the IT infrastructure to which we really need to pay attention,” says Shiu. “Most connected devices are effectively powerful networked computers – including printers that are often forgotten by IT security. But if they are compromised, everything you send to them can be leaked, but they can also become launch pads from which to attack the rest of your network, even if the PC attached to it has a firewall installed.”

Security for a Blended Reality

If PCs, laptops, and 2D printers are the dominant endpoint devices in HP’s portfolio today, it won’t be long before they are joined by ‘blended reality’ technologies that fuse our physical and digital worlds, featuring technologies like 3D printing, augmented reality, and sensors that detect everything from the weather to health data and traffic patterns.

“That trend both broadens and complicates the range of possible interactions between devices and between the devices and their management systems,” Shiu suggests. “A lot of the innovation we’re doing today is therefore directed towards ensuring that these technologies can be kept secure when they come to fruition, even if we don’t know exactly what they are going to look like.”

Underlying that work is the vision that guides HP’s security strategy as a whole: that in today’s threat environment you have to assume that at some point your system will be compromised, however impregnable it might seem right now, and design systems and devices from the start with the ability to detect and remediate successful attacks.

In the future, such compromises could impact millions, or even billions, of cyber-physical devices at once, making it essential to design detection and recovery capabilities that can operate across very large networks, detecting and isolating breaches and recovering, all at considerable scale, and with minimum inconvenience to the user.

“That has us thinking very hard about how we can innovate around security management over entire infrastructures and ecosystems,” says Shiu.