Government-Sponsored Hacking of Embedded Systems

Everywhere you look these days, it is readily apparent that embedded systems of all types are under attack by hackers. In just one example from the last few weeks, researchers at Kaspersky Lab (a Moscow-headquartered maker of anti-virus and other software security products) published a report documenting a specific pernicious and malicious attack against “virtually all hard drive firmware”. […]

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A Look Back at the Audi 5000 and Unintended Acceleration

I was in high school in the late 1980’s when NHTSA (pronounced “nit-suh”), Transport Canada, and others studied complaints of unintended acceleration in Audi 5000 vehicles. Looking back on the Audi issues, and in light of my own recent role as an expert investigating complaints of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles, there appears to be a fundamental contradiction between […]

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An Update on Toyota and Unintended Acceleration

In early 2011, I wrote a couple of blog posts (here and here) as well as a later article (here) describing my initial thoughts on skimming NASA’s official report on its analysis of Toyota’s electronic throttle control system. Half a year later, I was contacted and retained by attorneys for numerous parties involved in suing Toyota for personal injuries and […]

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Introducing Barr Group

In the ten months since forming Barr Group, I have received many questions about the new company. As we enter the new year, I thought it a good time to use this blog post to answer the most frequently asked questions, such as: What does Barr Group do? Who are Barr Group’s clients? How is Barr […]

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What NHTSA/NASA Didn’t Consider re: Toyota’s Firmware

In a blog post yesterday (Unintended Acceleration and Other Embedded Software Bugs), I wrote extensively on the report from NASA’s technical team regarding their analysis of the embedded software in Toyota’s ETCS-i system. My overall point was that it is hard to judge the quality of their analysis (and thereby the overall conclusion that the […]

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Social Networking for Engineers

Would your best friend describe you as a particularly “social” person? Do you like to “network” and meet new people? If you’re an engineer, your answer is probably something like, “Um, no and no. Now can I slink back to my cube, Mr. Nosy McSales Guy?” The growth of “social networking” in its many forms […]

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Embedded Software is the Future of Product Quality and Safety

Last year a friend had a St. Jude pacemaker attached to his heart. When he reported an unexpected low battery reading (displayed on an associated digital watch) to his doctor a month later, he learned this was the result of a firmware bug known to the manufacturer. The battery was fine and would last on the order […]

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Firmware Wall of Shame: Welch Allyn Defibrillator Recall

The FDA has just announced a Class I (the most serious human risk category) recall of the Welch Allyn AED 10 automatic external defibrillator (shown). Among the reasons for the recall are the following problems that are either caused by embedded software bugs or hardware problems able to be fixed entirely through a firmware upgrade: “Units serviced in 2007 […]

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Requirements vs. Design

Over the years, I have found that many engineers (as well as their managers) struggle to separate the various elements or layers of firmware engineering. For example, we are barraged with requests for “design reviews” that turn out to be “code reviews” because the customer is confused about the meaning of “design”. In the hopes […]

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Programming as Profession

Doing my daily reading around the embedded systems press, I happened across this gem in an article by Jim Turley: Programming is often treated as a creative endeavor, undertaken by spirited and talented artistes who cannot or should not be shackled to convention, regulations, or reasonable hygiene. Get over it. Programming is a job like any other, and […]

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