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Spansion, SanDisk move to secure mobile systems

Posted: 01 Aug 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Dave Bursky? Spansion? SanDisk? mobile security? memory subsystem?

Spansion Inc. and SanDisk Corp. are using different approaches to tackle the ever-growing need for security in mobile systems.

Both end users looking to protect personal data, and commercial companies safeguarding financial transactions and media content, like music and video, are concerned about security.

Spansion promises to improve security in mobile systems with a secure memory subsystem in a multichip package. Taking a different approach, SanDisk has licensed the Aeon non-volatile reprogRAMmable memory of Impinj Inc. to add security features to its portable storage products.

Standardizing around a secure memory subsystem, Spansion said, will make it simpler to add security features to a system. Designers can add a single component and some driver software to a cellphone, PDA or other device, and provide an easy-to-implement solution that includes tamper protection, said Jeremy Werner, solutions delivery marketing manager for Spansion's Wireless Systems Division.

Spansion outlined the memory subsystem in the package: It combines a security controller chip as well as MirrorBit NOR flash, MirrorBit Ornand flash memory and possibly pseudostatic or dynamic RAM. The mix of memory types and capacities will be custom-tailored based on the application needs.

The controller chip includes a random-number generator, a data encryption engine and public key infrastructure authentication, thus offloading these time-consuming computations from the host system's CPU. Read protection with scalable partition sizes gives designers enough system flexibility to meet memory needs ranging from 128Mbytes to multiple gigabytes of secure storage. Not only can the memory subsystem secure data storage, Spansion said, it can also prevent hackers and viruses from accessing program code and modifying program execution. It can also handle operations such as device/network authentication and identity management.

This high level of security will help content providers by enabling standard mobile-security protection by embedded flash in all phone segments and platforms, and by providing secure key storage, Werner said. Moreover, it provides authenticated downloads and a secure execution environment and permits secure downloads for A/V content or games, and customizable rights assignment. For transactions, it provides a secure channel for purchases, stock transfers and other mobile commerce. It delivers a simple implementation for a full spectrum of mobile platform designs, from low- to high-end phones and PDAs. For handset OEMs, the single-package solution lowers development costs and reduces time-to-market, Werner said.

Spansion expects to sample its software development kit for the secure memory in the fourth quarter and to sample some of the multichip devices in the first half of next year.

SanDisk, the largest vendor of memory cards for digital cameras and other mobile applications, also sees the need for security in its memory cards. By adding a few hundred bits of reprogrammable nonvolatile memory to the digital controllers it now employs in memory cards and USB-based storage devices, the storage platforms can then hold security keys, passwords, digital-rights management controls and other identity-related information, said Larry Morrell, VP of IP products at Impinj.

- Dave Bursky
EE Times

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