Physical tamper resistance on electronics.


There are some electronic devices, like banking equipment, medical equipment and equipment for other high security applications that boasts that it can defend against data theft, usually by wiping the onboard encryption keys when it detects attempts at disassembly or intrusion. However, what are they ways that electronic devices detect against intrusion or disassembly, and how effective are those methods?

In: Engineering

Every method can be defeated with the right amount of skill, proper tools, and enough time.

For electronics, they’ll often have circuitry built into the devices where a circuit is completed when the device is shut. When the circuit is broken, this triggers programming on the device to wipe the data or whatever else they want to do. For devices that wipe data, keys unlocking the device will bypass the programming causing the data to be wiped. These devices have batteries inside to keep the circuit on just like how all computers have batteries to keep the clocks accurate.

Other methods of detection include having fragile items that are intentionally in the way of intruders. An analogy would be to put a sticker on a box. You have to cut the sticker to open the box and there’s no other way of doing so. Similar concepts, but different things breaking.

For password attempts and similar things for when the device is turned on, the device simply keeps count of how many times someone tried to unlock the device and when a max number of failures is reached it wipes the device.