|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] DRM Laptops
IBM to Hard-Wire Encryption onto Chips for CE Products
IBM Corp's new security architecture, codenamed SecureBlue, aims to add
a level of defense to computer chips and the electronics products into
which they are incorporated by hard-wiring cryptography directly onto
the microprocessor at the design phase. The architecture is designed to
be used in notebooks and other consumer electronics products, medical
devices, defense systems and digital media systems.
SecureBlue is essentially circuitry overlaid or built into a
microprocessor chip to protect the chip itself as well as an entire
device built around the chip. IBM claims that because the encryption
is in hardware, it serves to prevent reverse-engineering or other
tampering. Other approaches currently on the market provide security in
software or on a separate microchip. IBM claims the on-chip approach can
improve security over an entire network of computers and mobile devices.
Corporate Concerns "To have a truly secure system, security must be
addressed end-to-end, from the data center to the end user," said Charles
Palmer, manager of security and privacy at IBM Research. He added that
security exposures are an issue wherever data is stored. But increasingly,
he said, information is moving from a company's data center to less-secure
PCs, cell phones and PDAs. Those devices can be more easily stolen from
inside corporations or from employees on the road, and they are open to
attack when they use vulnerable wireless networks.
IBM has said is that the SecureBlue architecture, which it will implement
in its own microprocessors as well as those of its technology partners
such as semiconductor makers, could provide inexpensive security to
notebook computers, PDAs and other consumer devices. That level of
security, the company said, originally was designed for expensive
Interwoven into Design Secure Blue was developed by IBM Research
(see Fig). The circuitry cannot be retrofitted onto existing
microprocessors. Instead, it can be interwoven into the circuit design of
new processors not only from IBM but from any other company, according
to IBM. The company already has implemented SecureBlue on some of its
own Power PC processors. It also will license the technology.
SecureBlue uses a common encryption known as the advanced encryption
standard (AES). Data is encrypted and decrypted as it runs through the
processor, on the fly. It is kept encrypted in the random-access memory
of a device. One of the few places where the data is not encrypted is
when it is displayed to the user. IBM did have to add some circuits,
but claims it has a minimal impact on the system performance or price.
IBM's approach differs from that of Intel Corp's LaGrande, for example,
which requires a separate chip with encryption to protect against
software attacks. LaGrande allows for connection of a chip called the
trusted platform module (TPM) via a bus.
SecureBlue is claimed to be stronger than TPM because the encryption
functions are integrated into the central processor's functions. IBM,
however, has said it has not yet had discussions with Intel or AMD about
including SecureBlue in their processors.
SecureBlue architecture can detect a physical attack on a device,
including the actual removal of a chip. The on-chip circuits contain
sensors that can shut down a stolen system or one that someone is
attempting to hack by automatically erasing encryption keys once an attack
is detected, turning any data on a person's BlackBerry or notebook into
"garbage". IBM has not yet named semiconductor or application partners,
but has said the architecture could be used to protect electronic
passports and other items such as electronic organizers and cell phones
at the microchip level.
by Lori Valigra
(June 2006 Issue, Nikkei Electronics Asia)
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