SAN MATEO, Calif. Texas Instruments Inc. renewed its vows with microprocessor developer ARM Ltd. by announcing a plan to incorporate ARM's hardware security scheme for chip sets used in wireless handsets.
By licensing ARM's security-enhanced CPU cores, TI is betting that ARM's TrustZone technology has what it takes to become the hardware security platform of choice for handsets. As a heavyweight provider of semiconductors for handsets and wireless equipment, TI's endorsement should give ARM a boost in its effort to convince software makers and others to do the same.
The companies said Tuesday (June 29) that building secure handsets is a top priority for service providers and handset makers as they try to profit from digital content. "Operators are crying out for the digital multimedia handset. They really want it to take off," said Dave Steer, ARM's director of U.S. marketing.
A big hurdle, however, is getting content providers to sign on. Record labels and Hollywood studios have grown increasingly wary of digital piracy and are cracking down on offenders.
"They lost the audio battle, they're not going to lose the video one as well. The key is to convince Hollywood that we've got it under control," Steer sad.
For chip vendors, this means finding ways to erect security barriers within their hardware. ARM's TrustZone, for one, designates protected areas of memory for passwords and encryption algorithms that are seaprated from other applications, including the operating system. The hardware security features have been built into two of ARM's CPU cores the ARM1176JZ-S and and JZF-S and can be extended to encompass peripherals and external memory, according to ARM.
This should prevent a rogue application, for example, from mimicking a sequence of key inputs, which would be harder to stop using a software-only approach. "In a perfect world one application would not be able to talk to another application. But operating systems are so big and complex that you just can't provide that," Steer said.
TI has been providing its own hardware security features for its chip sets over the last 18 months. It will take another 18 to 24 months before its first chip sets using ARM's technology appear in the market, a spokeswoman said.
ARM considers the TI endorsement an important victory, but there's still work to do. TrustZone will eventually need to have hooks to operating systems and middleware, which will require the approval of operating system vendors. Steer said ARM is in discussions with operating system vendors and expects that they will eventually jump on board.