Aerospace & Defence

Embedded database importance in aerospace and defence industry

6th June 2024
Paige West

Many software companies steer clear of the defence industry when identifying their core markets. Historically, procurement in the defence industry concentrates on obtaining tangible materials and equipment, resulting in procedures that conflict with many software licenses.

Software companies also face bureaucratic obstacles, as well as safety and security standards, which result in protracted sales cycles. Many companies have less desire to work on defence projects due to ethical and cultural concerns. But there are many who do manage to reach the other side of the fence and build embedded applications. Data processing, analytics and management often play a vital role in such applications.

As in many other industries, embedded systems applications in aerospace and defence must collect, process, and analyse large volumes of data, often in real time. When data is processed, the accuracy of physical measurements and other results is crucial to make quick decisions, actively notify other parts of the system, and passively share information. Embedded database software quality is essential, since devices must adhere to strict safety and security regulations, and these industries have set tight standards and regulations to assure certification. As a result, systems built for aerospace and defence are subject to intense scrutiny.

The aerospace and defence industries also depend heavily on data security, since intrusions can have catastrophic effects on lives, systems, and national security. Data integrity breaches can have disastrous consequences, including the failure of an entire mission. Without adequate data security, companies find it difficult to obtain certification and launch a product. Considering the growing emphasis on innovation with the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning (ML), aerospace and defence (A&D) corporations are under more pressure than ever to implement data management strategies that will boost security. At ITTIA, we asked ourselves a question a few years ago: where should we start in preparing our embedded database software for these industries?

Our first step was to internally establish procedures for a secure development practice. With a safe development life cycle that considers security at every stage, ITTIA's security procedures and capabilities help edge device manufacturers to avoid unpredictability in data management as much as possible. We follow a secure-by-design development process from product conception to end-of-life that is infused with modern and integrated software development methodologies. As a result, ITTIA DB provides a comprehensive solution for secure data management on IoT devices.

Security is far more complex now as embedded systems built for various markets including A&D are no longer isolated and device interaction creates risk. In addition, secure data storage is essential since embedded systems require the preservation of sensitive data throughout the life of the device. Therefore, a multi-dimensional security technique is needed for device internal data management, data protection concerns, and system vulnerabilities.

Security features provided by ITTIA include data encryption, query authentication, the ITTIA DB Security Expert Agent Library (DB-SEAL), and support for various hardware security modules. For example, one of the most common database threats is a SQL injection attack, which can allow the introduction of malicious code into the system and the execution of harmful queries. Another type of attack known as control hijacking involves rerouting the regular control flow of the applications that are operating on the device, often culminating in the hacker inserting SQL code. DB-SEAL mitigates such attacks by directly validating SQL code at execution time.

In the embedded world, it is vital that organisations can deploy their solutions knowing that the technology they rely on is developed with security and safety at the forefront. For example, to help ensure this level of confidence, we have embedded security awareness and practices throughout product development. This is achieved through the ITTIA Secure Development Lifecycle, ITTIA SDL.

Furthermore, data cleaning, data profiling, and removal of obsolete data are steps that embedded systems manufactured for aerospace and defence must themselves follow to ensure data quality. Manufacturers need to go through this process to keep data accurate and up to date, which is especially important before feeding it into a machine learning algorithm. Consistency from design to delivery must be planned and practiced, preventing post-launch defects and product failures.

Processing, managing, and securing data is crucial for aerospace and defence products. Application, real-time operating system (RTOS), hardware and communications are the security domains that manufacturers usually group together in silos for general operational purposes. Regretfully, these silos don't inherently consider data management to improve overall security. A disjointed approach ends up being costly and inefficient, leaving gaps for attackers to exploit. At ITTIA, we welcome customers to contact us directly about their embedded systems, so we can explain the value we add for data processing, analytics and management.

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