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ARM makes deal for cryptographic core

Posted: 10 Jul 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ARM? security accelerator core? SafeNet? wireless? smart-card chip?

ARM has licensed a security accelerator core from SafeNet Inc., a security technology leader in the virtual private network (VPN) market. The move responds to concerns about security in consumer and business applications, from wireless to smart-card chips.

The agreement will allow ARM to provide its technology partners with one of SafeNet's cryptographic acceleration cores. A high-performance version of the SafeNet core has already been certified for use in such high-security applications as ATM machines.

ARM-specific IP

The SafeNet IP core licensed by ARM was specifically designed to work with ARM cores. Licensees of ARM cores will be able to integrate an ARM and SafeNet IP core into their own systems-on-chip for such applications as smart cards.

"Smart cards are getting smarter," said Cees Jan Koomen, chairman of SafeNet Europe. "A lot of chip companies have been banging on our door," searching for ways to add security functions to their silicon.

The partnership with ARM is the third large IP deal that the small security technology company has pulled off lately. It also contracted with Texas Instruments to add security features to Open Multimedia Applications Platform-based mobile handsets and signed a deal with Samsung that lets the South Korean giant use SafeNet's IP across multiple product lines.

According to a recent report by SchlumbergerSema, a business unit of Paris-based smart-card vendor Schlumberger Ltd., the smart-card market expects a number of "new trends and technology shifts" over the next few years. In addition to a substantial increase in multiapplication cards and Java cards, SchlumbergerSema expects "smart-card-enabled public-key infrastructure [PKI] technology to start playing a growing role in the deployment of many 2.5- and third-generation networks, the rollout of national ID card programs, and the implementation of smart-card-based network access for enterprise IT systems."

The report states that heightened security concerns, stemming from the events of Sept. 11, are driving "governments and businesses to explore new ways to protect the security of their IT networks and buildings without compromising the privacy of individuals. From a technological standpoint, such [public-sector ID] cards must support a sophisticated PKI to achieve the highest level of protection against counterfeiting. This necessitates powerful on-card cryptographic-processing capabilities."

The security features of Safe-Net's EmbeddedIP-25 (EIP-25) modular multiplication and exponentiation accelerator core include a secure software environment, a quality true random- number generator, a PKI acceleration engine, a ciphering unit, a hashing unit, a secure memory, and overall security that ensures that all the modules are built in a way that makes them resistant to electromechanical probing. Although there are competitors that provide similar security IP, Koomen said, "we believe that ours is the first core that has the total feature set."

Adding more rigorous security measures to a system-on-chip is one thing, but it's quite another to implement it so that it offers a combination of speed and minimum power consumption. Such features are critical, since smart-card chips are often used in battery-operated devices such as mobile handsets.

SSL in 100 milliseconds

SafeNet's EIP-25 performs RSA operations within 100 milliseconds while consuming 5 milliamps of power. "We believe that getting an SSL [Secure Sockets Layer] transaction done in 100 ms is a sufficient response time acceptable to consumers," Koomen said.

SafeNet engineers improved the low-power operation in its EIP-25 by designing a mechanism that turns off the core when it's not needed for calculations. "Five milliamps is a power budget for our IP . . . it doesn't mean that it needs that much all the time," Koomen said.

SafeNet's IP core uses ARM's Amba AHB Bus as the bus structure. The EIP-25 functions as a "slave" to ARM's SecurCore microprocessor's bus master, according to SafeNet.

SafeNet and ARM are "creating an innovative procedure," under which a third party will do "certifications on the IP level," said Koomen. That doesn't mean that the need for system-level certification will go away, but chip vendors will at least have the comfort of knowing that the IP they integrate into their applications are already certified, he said.

? Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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