TI tackles mobile phone chip security

Texas Instruments (TI) is to build advanced security features into its next generation of mobile processors.

Texas Instruments (TI) is to build advanced security features into its next generation of mobile processors.

The company is to incorporate a security platform from UK chip designer ARM Holdings into its smartphones and PDAs to reduce the risk of attack from worms and hackers.

The collaboration between TI and ARM follows the introduction of hardware-based security in Intel's next-generation XScale handheld chips, and the recent discovery of the first mobile-phone virus.

ARM's hardware security platform, TrustZone, has the potential to become a widespread standard since ARM's processor cores power most mobile phones and newer handheld computers.

The increasing sophistication of mobile phones is opening the way to the types of problems already plaguing internet-connected PCs.

"As devices become more powerful and capable of executing a wider range of functions and applications, the need for security increases," said John Cornish, director of product marketing at ARM.

"For a large wireless network, a virus sweeping across clients and causing a disruption would have an enormous cost for the network operator and for customers," said Cornish.

Mobile chipmakers are turning to hardware-based security, a concept pioneered in the PC world with Microsoft's Next Generation Secure Code Base (NGSCB), formerly known as Palladium.

Schemes put forward by Intel, the Open Mobile Alliance, TI and ARM all create a protected portion of memory separated from the rest of the processor, where applications can be verified and then run securely.

"It creates a sandbox isolated from the other software, and prevents the possibility of interference between the two areas," said Cornish.

The first TrustZone-enabled chips are expected to appear in another 18 to 24 months, TI said.

Matthew Broersma writes for Techworld.com



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