Tamper-proof chips to counter physical threat against IoT

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Tamper-proof chips to counter physical threat against IoT

ARM, a British multinational semiconductor and software design company, owned by SoftBank Group, has introduced a new processor, the Cortex-M35P, which they claim provides robust anti-tampering technology and softwarer isolation, thus bringing new levels of smartcard security to emerging applications such as smart metering, door locks and automotive.

IoT security is a multi-faceted problem with billions of diverse devices requiring a system-wide approach for protecting them

said Paul Williamson, Vice President and General Manager, IoT Device IP Line of Business, at ARM.
Together, the new suite of IP empowers Arm partners to achieve a flexible and robust level of physical security enabling emerging IoT use cases,” he believes.

In the past, it was harder to justify protecting against physical attacks beyond payment applications. However, as IoT gains momentum and more devices with high-value data become connected, the physical attack surface becomes more attractive to hackers. This is amplified by the availability of tools and education, which make these physical attacks cheaper and easier to make a reality. To protect the IoT, we need to think beyond software attacks and physical security requires our attention more than ever. As new use cases emerge, this protection won’t just be required for payment and identity applications, it will need to be integrated for use cases such as smart lighting, connected door locks, smart meters or automotive applications.

The latest generation of physical threat against IoT aim to exploit vulnerabilities at the silicon implementation level, rather than exploiting a software or design level weakness. These physical attacks fall into two main categories: invasive attacks, requiring (at least) chip de-packaging, and non-invasive attacks, for example close proximity side-channel attacks (SCA), which gain information through unintended side channels stemming from the silicon implementation (for example through observing the chip’s power consumption or electromagnetic field emission during a cryptographic operation). Both attack classes have similar goals – retrieve sensitive information processed within the chip or simply cause it to carry out unintended behavior, serving the attacker’s goals.

All Arm secure IP designed to protect against physical attacks will be designated with a “P” tag for physical security. The Cortex-M35P is a robust, high-performing processor that enables embedded security developers to hinder physical tampering and achieve a higher level of security certification.

Author: Tim Cole
Image Credit: ARM

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