IBM bakes security into processors

Secure Blue is expected to be available on Monday says IBM. The Armonk, N.Y.-based company envisions its idea and technology will be used in digital media players, electronic organizers, cell phones, computers and devices used by the government and the medical and financial industries. With Secure Blue, data is encrypted and decrypted as it runs through a processor, according to IBM. It is maintained encrypted in the device memory, or RAM. One of the few times data would not be scrambled is when it is actually displayed. 

Secure Blue requires a few circuits to be added to a microprocessor, taking up a small percentage of the overall silicon real estate, according to IBM. The encryption and decryption happens on-the-fly, without any processor overhead, the company said. The hardwired security technology can be used for multiple purposes, not all of which necessarily serve the device owner. It can protect data when a person's computer or device is lost, stolen or hacked, for example. But content owners can also use it for enforcement of copyright, called digital rights management (DRM), which critics have called a scourge to user freedom.

The idea of hardware-based security is not new. Millions of laptops already contain a chip called a Trusted Platform Module, or TPM, which offers protected storage of encryption keys, passwords and digital certificates. The idea of the TPM is also coming to servers and mobile phones. iIBM has built a prototype of Secure Blue using its own PowerPC processor technology. However, the system will work with any processor design, including those from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices that are used in PCs. IBM has not had discussions with Intel or AMD on including Secure Blue in their processors.


News source: CNet

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