Validating a high performance programmable secure coprocessor

10 Feb

Correctly routing PCIe signal traces is a design challenge that few companies can handle well, and taking short cuts in single board computer and backplane designs which utilize the PCI Express interface will always result in suboptimal system performance particularly in rugged cyrptographic systems.

For example, it was previously best practice to keep PCIe traces well below 16 inches to ensure optimum performance, but updated PCIe specifications coupled with critical data throughput requirements in system security applications makes the PCIe trace length requirement even more restrictive.

Examples of tamper-resistant chips include all secure cryptoprocessors, such as the IBM 4758 and chips used in smartcards, as well as the Clipper chip.

It has been argued that it is very difficult to make simple electronic devices secure against tampering, because numerous attacks are possible, including: Tamper-resistant chips may be designed to zeroise their sensitive data (especially cryptographic keys) if they detect penetration of their security encapsulation or out-of-specification environmental parameters.

Sometimes (especially in order to avoid litigation), manufacturers go further and use tamper-resistant screws, which cannot be unfastened with standard equipment.

Some considerations might include: Tamper means interfere with (something) without authority or so as to cause damage.

The the IBM® 4767-002 PCIe Cryptographic Coprocessor Hardware Security Module (HSM) that forms the heart of our line of Trenton Cryptographic Systems (TCS) is driven by a PCIe interface.

It's critical for the security of the system that the HSM plugs into a backplane controlled by a single board computer that have both been designed for optimum PCI Express link performance.

Nearly all appliances and accessories can only be opened with the use of a screwdriver (or a substitute item such as a nail file or kitchen knife).

This prevents children and others who are careless or unaware of the dangers of opening the equipment from doing so and hurting themselves (from electrical shocks, burns or cuts, for example) or damaging the equipment.