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The Benefits of Hacking Embedded Devices

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Embedded devices can often perform the same tasks as workstations and servers while consuming less space and power, generating less heat, and being more cost-effective. Paul Asadoorian describes why you'd want to "hack" (install new firmware on) embedded devices, and which hardware and firmware choices are the best, so you can make your $40 router do things typically found in a $600 device!

Introduction

Today’s IT professional has a plethora of technology tools for solving complex problems. Whether the focus is security, networking, or systems administration, the choices are truly endless: high-end multi-processor, multi-core servers; laptops that run both Windows and Mac OS X simultaneously; endless selections of "live CDs" that allow you to boot Linux in various configurations; and, of course, embedded devices.

Embedded devices come in many different shapes, sizes, platforms, and software configurations. Whether you’re a penetration tester or a network administrator for a small (or large) organization, embedded devices are available to help you solve problems in new and exciting ways. But you probably can’t just buy an off-the-shelf embedded device and expect it to do exactly what you need it to do—you’ll likely have to customize the firmware on the device (called "hacking" the device) to get it to perform the tasks you need. In this article, we’ll explore the advantages of hacking embedded devices, along with some of the hardware and firmware options for the process.

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