ARM details power security plans

November 03, 2017 // By Nick Flaherty
Arm has developed new on-die technology to protect against attacks seeking to compromise sensitive information through the chip power consumption and electromagnetic emission.

The move has come to improve the security of devices connecting to the Internet of Things, where ARM sees a trillion devices becoming connected over the next decade.

A distributed power system protects against Simple and Differential Power Analysis (SPA/DPA) attacks where an attacker is trying to compromise confidential information such as a private cryptographic key through various analysis methods of the power consumed by the processor. This has been demonstrated several times as a potential weakness in a range of devices from microprocessors to FPGAs. This is linked to another vulnerability, Simple and Differential Electromagnetic Analysis (SEMA/DEMA), where an attacker is trying to determine that key through the fluctuations in the EM field.

Any security scheme is as strong as its weakest link, and an otherwise secure platform may be compromised if it is not protected against these methods, says Arm.

The protection technology is applied to the cryptographic blocks and associated logic such as TrustZone, creating separate power domains for the protected logic. The power to the protected logic is delivered via a proprietary secure power frame, which isolates a number of isolated power sources that are distributed throughout the secure power frame.

Adding this mitigation technology relieves designers of the need to worry about this category of non-invasive attacks, while providing a solution that is easily scalable to cover changes in the protected logic, says ARM. It can also be used across the full spectrum of silicon processes used in the semiconductor industry so that the smaller controller cores such as the M0+ can also be protected as these will also increasingly need encryption and security blocks.

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