Backdoors can allow unauthorized users to access an otherwise protected network or system. In cybersecurity, a backdoor is a weakness that’s used for this purpose. Hackers can bypass a network’s authentication processes by using a backdoor. While most backdoors are software based, though, some of them are hardware based.

What Is a Hardware-Based Backdoor?

A hardware-based backdoor is a type of a backdoor that leverages a piece of hardware. They typically consist of malicious code that’s embedded or otherwise included in a hardware component. Some hardware-based backdoors use Univeral Serial Bus (USB) sticks, whereas others use random access memory (RAM) or processing chips. Regardless, they all leverage a piece of hardware to deploy malware and, thus, allow the hacker to bypass authentication processes.

Hardware-Based vs Software-Based Backdoors

Backdoors can be classified as either hardware based or software based. Software-based backdoors run exclusively on software. They may use a virus or trojan, for instance. Upon downloading the virus or trojan, you’ll inadvertently create a backdoor that allows hackers to access your network or system.

Hardware-based backdoors typically have malicious code, but they don’t rely on software. As their name suggests, they rely on hardware. Computer hardware may contain malicious code that hackers can use to access an otherwise protected network or system. All hardware-based backdoors require a piece of infected or altered hardware.

Why Hardware-Based Backdoors Are a Problem

Whether hardware based or software based, all types of backdoors can be problematic. A single backdoor is all it takes for a hacker to access your network or system, which can lead to data breaches, ransomware and more. Hardware-based backdoors, however, are particularly troubling for several reasons.

Antivirus software offers little or no protection against hardware-based backdoors. You can use antivirus software to protect against software-based backdoors. But because hardware-based backdoors leverage a piece of hardware, they don’t contain signatures that antivirus software can detect.

Another reason hardware-based backdoors are more destructive than software-based backdoors is because they can bypass disk encryption. Disk encryption, of course, involves encrypting data stored on a computer. If you’re worried about software-based backdoors, you can use disk encryption to protect your data. Unfortunately, disk encryption is only effective at preventing software-based backdoors.

In Conclusion

While most backdoors leverage software, this doesn’t apply to all of them. Some of them leverage a piece of hardware. Known as hardware-based backdoors, they are harder to detect and remove than software-based backdoors.