ARM-led joint venture steps up security in devices

Semiconductor firm ARM has teamed up with smart card maker Gemalto and payment security firm Giesecke & Devrient to launch a joint venture dedicated to securing the software on connected devices.

The new venture will focus on the development of a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) based on the established ARM TrustZone security technology. The technology will provide a secure environment aimed at a new wave of advanced services for tablets, smart-TVs, games consoles and smartphones.

TrustZone is a feature of the processor architecture that provides user authentication capabilities, by “hardware-separating a rich operating system from a much smaller, tiny, secure operating system,” Rob Brown, secure solutions segment marketing at ARM told

“The underlying hardware enforces a strong separation of data that is tagged as secure. What it means in that rich operating systems that could have potentially been compromised cannot access data that is tagged as secure,” he said.

“Because we’re able to securely switch things like the touchscreen controller into that tightly-constrained secure OS, we can capture PINs securely, and encrypt them and process them out of view of a rich operating system.”

He added that this provides strong authentication built in to the device, which is not commonly done today with any other strong-authentication technologies used today.

“They’re all extra bits of hardware that you have to carry around; things you have to plug cards in to generate one-time passwords, so we’re able to remove those devices and that inconvenience for consumers and build the security into a more usable device,” added Brown.

ARM will own 40 per cent of the joint venture, which is subject to regulatory approval, with Gemalto and Giesecke & Devrient each owning 30 per cent.

Gemalto and Giesecke & Devrient are both long-standing ARM partners and will contribute their respective software expertise to the joint venture to accelerate standardisation and interoperability. All three companies will contribute assets to the new venture, including patents, software, people, cash and capital equipment.

“The integration of the hardware, software and services necessary for system-wide security has been slow,” said Warren East, CEO, ARM. “I am confident that this new joint venture will accelerate the adoption of a common security standard, enabling a vibrant ecosystem of secure service providers to emerge. This will be of significant step in terms of improved consumer trust in secure transactions on connected devices.”

ARM could also be in line for a new chairman, after reports in the UK suggest that Vodafone’s deputy chairman Sir John Buchanan is leaving the operator to take up the position at ARM, amid rumours that he is concerned about Vodafone’s potential takeover of struggling Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW).

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