Transmeta builds security into Crusoe chips

Transmeta is to build hardware security technology into the architecture of its flagship Crusoe processor that will store...

Transmeta is to build hardware security technology into the architecture of its flagship Crusoe processor that will store sensitive information and improve the performance of security algorithms.

The company has received samples with the new technology, and expects to ship the chips in volume in the second half of this year.

Crusoe processors are designed to operate in low-power environments such as notebooks and Tablet PCs. The latest chips mean users would be able to store digital certificates and authentication keys in a tamper-proof section of the microprocessor invisible to hackers, and run popular encryption technologies faster than existing processors allow.

The Crusoe processor uses a VLIW (very long instruction word) architecture to simplify the number of tasks executed by the chip, similar to proprietary server chips that use a RISC (reduced instruction set computing) architecture. Other PC processors from companies such as Intel or Advanced Micro Devices are made with more complex architectures that use Intel's x86 instruction set.

Since the underlying hardware is simplified, VLIW processors need to use code-morphing software to translate the x86 code in applications and operating systems developed for those chips into Transmeta's native machine code. That software needs to be stored directly on the chip, separate from the BIOS software.

Transmeta created interfaces to that storage space so users can keep their most sensitive information directly on the processor, completely separate from a PC's hard drive, operating system, or application.

The other portion of the new technology involves hardware acceleration for encryption algorithms such as DES (Data Encryption Standard), DES-X, and Triple-DES. A hardware accelerator is a dedicated piece of hardware that can perform tasks faster than software. It is used for critical applications that must have the increased computational ability of hardware, despite the higher cost.

Read more on Hackers and cybercrime prevention

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