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Microprocessor with built-in security

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IBM has unveiled a new technology designed to increase the security of consumer products, medical devices, defence systems and digital media.

Developed by IBM Research and codenamed “SecureBlue”, the new technology helps enable mainframe-inspired security typically only available in data centres.

“Security is the highest priority in the data centre and in a secure network – but it is only half the equation. To have a truly secure system, security must be addressed end to end – from the data centre all the way to the end user,” explained Charles Palmer, manager of security and privacy at IBM Research.

“As the use of various forms of digital devices becomes increasingly widespread and more essential, information becomes more distributed and thus more vulnerable, making strong security increasingly important since devices can be lost or stolen. Encryption techniques have long been employed on high-end systems, but the technologies are traditionally expensive and have considerable impact on system performance, making them impractical for consumer products. SecureBlue is the first technology to make encryption practical even for low-cost, relatively low performance electronics.”

Palmer said SecureBlue is a security architecture that can be built into a microprocessor chip that provides capabilities that have not been previously available in embedded processor products.

“It protects the security of microprocessor chips as well as the security of an entire microprocessor-based device. Because it is based on secure hardware rather than software techniques, it provides strong protection for secrets and strong defences against reverse-engineering and tampering. With mainframe-inspired security, SecureBlue can be used to protect the confidentiality of all the information on a device including documents, presentations and software, as well as the keys that are used for communications security or digital signatures.”

Palmer said IBM Technology Collaboration Solutions will work with clients and partners across key consumer electronic, medical, government and digital media industries in the integration of SecureBlue into products and solutions.

“IBM Technology Collaboration Solutions will license the technology, provide engineering, collaboration and design services to implement SecureBlue into customer designs, and even help manufacture the product for clients,” he said.

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