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Government Regulates Communication Devices in Public Places to Prevent Hackers From Attacking Digital Signage


U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi led a delegation to Taiwan in early August 2022 triggering a series of political consequences. Indeed, digital signage solutions used by both government agencies and private enterprises were targeted by hackers seeking to tamper with website content and spread misinformation.

As a result, Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s Minister of Digital Affairs, signed the Draft Amendment to the Principles Restricting the Use of Products Endangering National Information Security by Agencies immediately after taking office in an effort to prevent signage hacking and its resulting chaos. This amendment lists communication devices in public places as products endangering national information security and is intended to ensure that the central and local governments, administrative agencies, and public facilities — including the TRA, THSRC, and MRT — can use digital signs without information security hazards. This will help prevent hackers from spreading malicious misinformation. 

Digital Signages Made in Taiwan Prevent Pre-Installed Trojan Horses

The chaos following the digital signage hacks caused many people to ask why both public and private digital signage solutions were susceptible to hackers. Expert analysis provides some answers to these questions. 

First, the actual digital signage player targeted by these attacks may have contained components with pre-installed Trojan horse programs or chips with backdoors. This happens when manufactures use cheap/budget chips or unknown components. Taiwanese manufacturers have been historically successful in winning the trust of international customers with regards to hardware manufacturing and component selection. In fact, these customers know that signage solutions manufactured in Taiwan will remain free of Trojan horse programs during the production process and adhere to practices that guarantee security in the underlying hardware.

Second, the security software on the operating system (OS) manufactures use can have an impact on security. Be it an open source Linux system or relatively closed Windows system — the use of anti-virus and/or whitelist encryption software is an important security indicator. Illustratively, the use of such software significantly increases the difficulty hackers encounter when penetrating the OS and/or signage solution software. Using security software frees owners from worry regarding the unauthorized capturing of disk partitions and other underlying information. It also prevents the unauthorized rewriting of display content through remote control. In sum, operators can prevent hacking using Taiwan-made high-quality digital signage hardware or by installing defense software at the OS level.

Pre-Installed Multi-Protection Mechanism Prevents Hacking

Andy Lin, Senior Manager of Advantech's embedded IoT business group, proposes several feasible strategies for preventing hackers from entering the pipeline. First is the installation of anti-virus software. For example, Advantech's DS-085 multimedia player allows users to integrate McAfee Application Control whitelist protection via an additional purchase to block execution of unauthorized applications and thus prevent zero-day attacks. Second, is the utilization of backup and recovery solutions. DS-085 also supports integration of Acronis Cyber Backup. Acronis Cyber Backup offers exclusive ransomware defense technology (Active Protection). It also enables users to remotely or directly launch Windows or Linux virtual machines from the storage device immediately. This serves to make backups in the case of an attack and results in shorter recovery times.

Third is the use of Microsoft Cloud services. Customer applications involving multi-site management or multiple regions/branches can use Microsoft Cloud services to ensure secure connection between on-premises devices and the cloud virtual network. This protects applications and sensitive data against external network attacks. Using Microsoft Cloud services enables on-premises DS-085 devices to connect to the cloud through Azure VPN Gateway. Azure VPN Gateway is a secure encrypted site-to-site/point-to-site connection, inside a private domain that cannot be attacked by hackers.

In addition to these third-party solutions, DS-085 also comes with Advantech DeviceOn software. DeviceOn is used for device management, and allows users to monitor, manage and maintain remote digital signage online. In addition, DeviceOn leverages the big data it collects to support further user analysis and monitoring, and detect abnormalities that deviate from the normal baseline, thereby enhancing cybersecurity management.

By integrating solutions including McAfee Application Control, Acronis Cyber Backup, Azure VPN Gateway, and DeviceOn. The Advantech DS-085 media player has a robust high-level information security mechanism that prevents the hacking of digital signage.

Built-in Playback Software Supports Content Scheduling

The Advantech DS-085 also boasts a number of useful features in addition to the security software tools. At 19 mm thick, it is the industry's slimmest signage player; and is ideal for space-limited installation. It is also easy to assemble and securely install. Likewise, it boasts Energy Star® certification meaning it meets present ESG standards by being energy efficient and environmentally friendly. It also supports up to 4 x HDMI displays with resolution up to 4K and a cable-less Wi-Fi 6 protocol design.

In addition, DS-085 uses built-in SignageCMS software to allow users to schedule content directly without using additional tools. It features excellent workmanship, a fanless design, and zero noise emission capabilities; and has been tested rigorously. This combinations of features and attributes minimize downtime, reduce overheating, and avoid the need for offsite staff deployment in the event of maintenance. In sum, DS-085 is an excellent solution for users operating on a 24/7 basis.  

After reiterating that hackers plant fake messages in digital signage to disturb the public, Lin Yuxiong added that these incidents harm solution owners. Indeed, such attacks may damage the credibility of public agencies, induce business behavior, cause disputes, and effect the reputations of businesses. This combination of circumstances is why Taiwanese-made digital signage solutions with built-in playback software, 24/7 reliability, integrated data security/backup, and recovery/device management software are products.