Firmware/Hardware Security

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If you’re planning to take the Security+SY0-501 exam, you should have a basic understanding of implementing secure systems design. This includes firmware/hardware security,  operating systems, and peripherals.

For example, can you answer this question?

Q. What functions does an HSM include?

A. Reduces the risk of employees emailing confidential information outside the organization

B. Provides webmail to clients

C. Provides full drive encryption

D. Generates and stores keys used with servers

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

Full Security+ Course

SY0-501 Full Security+ Course

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Online access includes all of the content from the

CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide

  • Introduction
  • About the exam (including information on the number of questions, test duration, passing score, types of questions and more. Also includes a listing of the exam objectives)
  • 75 question pre-assessment exam
  • Mastering Security Basics (full content from Chapter 1 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Identity and Access Management (full content from Chapter 2 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Exploring Network Technologies and Tools (full content from Chapter 3 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Securing Your Network (full content from Chapter 4 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Securing Hosts and Data (full content from Chapter 5 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Comparing Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Common Attacks (full content from Chapter 6 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Protecting Against Advanced Attacks (full content from Chapter 7 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Using Risk Management Tools (full content from Chapter 8 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Implementing Controls to Protect Assets (full content from Chapter 9 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Cryptography and PKI (full content from Chapter 10 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • Implementing Policies to Mitigate Risks (full content from Chapter 11 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 15 practice test questions)
  • 75 question post-assessment exam
  • Glossary

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Test your readiness with these quality materials

Random 75-question tests

Random practice tests from the all of the practice test questions in the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide. All questions include explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.

3 sets Performance-based Questions

Three new sets of performance-based questions with a total of 30 questions. These new questions use a new testing engine that includes realistic drag and drop, matching, sorting, and fill in the blank questions.

Flashcard Set

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  • 223 Online Security+ Remember This Slide from the popular CompTIA Security+ Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide

Audio - SY0-501 Security+ Remember This Audio Files

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Audio - SY0-501 Security+ Question and Answer Audio Files

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Bonus #1

Audio from the end of chapter reviews from each of the chapters in the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide. Over one hour and 40 minutes of additional audio.

Bonus #2

Access to all of the online content that is available for free to anyone that purchases the CompTIA Security+ Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide. This includes labs, extra practice test questions, and supplementary materials

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When implementing secure systems design, it’s also important to evaluate several hardware elements. Additionally, an organization should evaluate the supply chain. A supply chain includes all the elements required to produce a product. In secure systems design, the product is a secure system.

There have been many incidents where new computers were shipped with malware. As an example, Microsoft researchers purchased several new computers in China and found them infected with the Nitol virus. These computers were also running counterfeit versions of Windows. This helps illustrate the importance of purchasing computers from reputable sources.
Firmware and Hardware Security

EMI and EMP

When designing systems, it’s important to consider electromagnetic interference (EMI) and electromagnetic pulse (EMP). EMI comes from sources such as motors, power lines, and fluorescent lights and it can interfere with signals transmitted over wires. Chapter 9 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide discusses shielding that helps prevent EMI from causing problems. It’s easier to include shielding during the design process rather than add shielding later.

EMP is a short burst of electromagnetic energy. EMP can come from a wide assortment of sources and some sources can cause damage to computing equipment. Some sources include:

  • Electrostatic discharge (ESD). Basic ESD prevention practices, such as using ESD wrist straps, help prevent ESD damage.
  • Lightning. Lightning pulses can go through electrical wires and damage unprotected systems. Surge protection methods, such as surge protection strips, protect electrical systems.
  • Military weapons. Nuclear explosions create a large EMP that can damage electronic equipment (including embedded systems) over a large area. Some non-nuclear weapons have been designed to mimic the nuclear EMP, but without the nuclear explosion. Non-nuclear EMP has a smaller range than nuclear EMP, but can still damage equipment. The best publicly known protection is to turn equipment off, but you’re unlikely to know when one of these explosions will occur.

Remember this

Secure systems design considers electromagnetic interference(EMI) and electromagnetic pulse (EMP). EMI comes from sources such as motors, power lines, and fluorescent lights and can be prevented with shielding. Systems can be protected from mild forms of EMP (a short burst of electromagnetic energy) such as electrostatic discharge and lightning.

FDE and SED

Full disk encryption (FDE) encrypts an entire disk. Several applications are available to do this. For example, VeraCrypt is an open source utility that can encrypt partitions or the entire storage device.

Many hardware vendors now manufacture hardware-based FDE drives. These are sometimes referred to as self-encrypting drives (SEDs). An SED includes the hardware and software to encrypt all data on the drive and securely store the encryption keys. These typically allow users to enter credentials when they set up the drive. When users power up the system, they enter their credentials again to decrypt the drive and boot the system.

UEFI and BIOS

The Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) includes software that provides a computer with basic instructions on how to start. It runs some basic checks, locates the operating system, and starts. The BIOS is often referred to as firmware. It is a hardware chip that you can physically see and touch and it includes software that executes code on the computer. The combination of hardware and software is firmware.

Newer systems use Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) instead of BIOS. UEFI performs many of the same functions as BIOS, but provides some enhancements. As an example, it can boot from larger disks and it is designed to be CPU-independent.

Both BIOS and UEFI can be upgraded using a process called flashing. Flashing overwrites the software within the chip with newer software.

CompTIA Security+ Study Guide

The 501 Version of the Study Guide

The CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide is an update to the top-selling SY0-201, SY0-301, and SY0-401 study guides, which have helped thousands of readers pass the exam the first time they took it.  It includes the same elements readers raved about in the previous three versions.

Each of the eleven chapters presents topics in an easy to understand manner and includes real-world examples of security principles in action.

You’ll understand the important and relevant security topics for the Security+ exam, without being overloaded with unnecessary details. Additionally, each chapter includes a comprehensive review section to help you focus on what’s important.



Over 300 realistic practice test questions with in-depth explanations will help you test your comprehension and readiness for the exam. The book includes:

  • A 75 question pre-test
  • A 75 question post-test
  • Practice test questions at the end of every chapter.

Each practice test question includes a detailed explanation to help you understand the content and the reasoning behind the question. You’ll be ready to take and pass the exam the first time you take it.

If you plan to pursue any of the advanced security certifications, this guide will also help you lay a solid foundation of security knowledge. Learn this material, and you’ll be a step ahead for other exams. This SY0-501 study guide is for any IT or security professional interested in advancing in their field, and a must-read for anyone striving to master the basics of IT security.

Kindle edition also available.

Hardware Security Module

A hardware security module (HSM) is a security device you can add to a system to manage, generate, and securely store cryptographic keys. High-performance HSMs are external devices connected to a network using TCP/IP. Smaller HSMs come as expansion cards you install within a server, or as devices you plug into computer ports.

HSMs support the security methods as a TPM. They provide a hardware root of trust, secure boot, and can be configured for remote attestation.

One of the noteworthy differences between an HSM and a TPM is that HSMs are removable or external devices. In comparison, a TPM is a chip embedded into the motherboard. You can easily add an HSM to a system or a network, but if a system didn’t ship with a TPM, it’s not feasible to add one later. Both HSMs and TPMs provide secure encryption capabilities by storing and using RSA keys. Many high-performance servers use HSMs to store and protect keys.

Remember this

A hardware security module (HSM) is a removable or external device that can generate, store, and manage RSA keys used in asymmetric encryption. Many server-based applications use an HSM to protect keys.


Security+ Practice Test Questions

SY0-501 Practice Test Questions 

Over 300 realistic Security+ practice test questions

All questions include explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct,

and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.

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Multiple quiz formats to let you use these questions based on the way you learn.
  • Learn mode - randomized. View each of the questions in random order. Learn mode allows you to keep selecting answers until you select the correct answer. Once you select the correct answer, you'll see the explanation. Click here to see how learn mode works.
  • Learn mode - not randomized. View each of the questions in the same order. Use this if you want to make sure that you see all of the questions. Learn mode allows you to keep selecting answers until you select the correct answer. Once you select the correct answer, you'll see the explanation. Click here to see how learn mode works.
  • Test mode - randomized. View each of the questions in random order. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.
  • Test mode - not randomized. View each of the questions in the same order. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.
  • Test mode - 75 random questions. View 75 random questions from the full test bank similar to how the Security+ exam has a potential maximum of 75 multiple choice questions. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.

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 SY0-501 Practice Test Questions


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FOR THE NEW PERFORMANCE BASED QUESTIONS 

Bonus - Performance Based Questions

Three sets of performance-based questions including over 30 questions. These questions show you what you can expect in the live exam. They include drag and drop, matching, sorting, and fill in the blank questions. See a demo here.

Bonus - Extra Practice Test Questions

New multiple-choice questions in the extra test bank. Questions are added occasionally. You can see what has been added recently here.

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Q. What functions does an HSM include?

A. Reduces the risk of employees emailing confidential information outside the organization

B. Provides webmail to clients

C. Provides full drive encryption

D. Generates and stores keys used with servers

Answer is D. A hardware security module (HSM) is a removable device that can generate and store RSA keys used with servers for data encryption.

A data loss prevention (DLP) device is a device that can reduce the risk of employees emailing confidential information outside the organization.

Software as a Service (SaaS) provides software or applications, such as webmail, via the cloud.

A Trusted Platform Module (TPM) provides full drive encryption and is included in many laptops.

See Chapter 5 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide for more information on securing hosts and data.

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