Security on Silicon the Next Big Step in Cyber Protection

By on Jan 25, 2016

Red circuit lock
With the growth of the Internet of Things, going from 15 billion to 200 billion devices by 2020, and the focus by attackers to get further down the stack, silicon-based security will play an increasing role in protecting technology and users.

As attackers evolve, they get stronger, smarter, and more resourceful. Traditional defensive structures must advance to meet the new challenges. Security features embedded or enhanced by silicon can be incredibly powerful and deliver benefits in three areas: reducing risk of comprise, lowering overall cost of ownership, and enhancing user experiences.

From a risk reduction perspective, one of the most important areas gaining traction is Trusted Execution Environments. This is where sensitive functions are migrated from being handled by the operating system and moved into a protected space in the hardware. This step keeps critical routines safely away from malicious actions and other applications, virtual machine monitors, operating systems, or administrative functions that may be compromised. Imagine a banking application running securely on an untrusted or compromised system. This is the ultimate goal: silicon hardware providing a hardened fortress that attackers will find very difficult to invade.

Reducing costs is always a benefit. As security functions such as Trusted Platform Modules and biometric authentications are consolidated into CPUs, the total cost of a device goes down. Integration means fewer hardware components, software, and peripherals are needed. Everyone following a budget can appreciate that!

Lastly, silicon is being designed to deliver security and improve the user experience. For example, modern CPUs benefit from encryption acceleration functions to make encryption run much faster. This allows hard drive and network traffic to be protected with strong encryption protocols at speeds that users don’t notice. Security can become unobtrusive if designed and implemented in smart ways. Silicon advances in identity and authentication can greatly reduce the friction and frustration of users by reducing password use and intelligently automating logins. Hardware has boosted software performance and facilitated better user interfaces for decades. It is time the same benefits are applied to security.

Better security, lower cost, and improved usability benefits. That is the road on which security on silicon will take us to greater benefits in the next few years.

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McAfee Labs

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