GOOGLE HAS REVEALED OpenTitan, an open-source project that aims to cook up designs for chips with security baked into them.
While AMD and Intel CPUs now come with hardware security features, OpenTitan wants to create chips that have "an open-source hardware root of trust" that ensures a level of security at the hardware level for cloud providers, data centre operators and other folks that need a lot of compute power to wrangle loads of data.
Effectively, OpenTitan will provide a set of design and integration instructions for use in server motherboards, storage devices, peripherals and other bits of hardware, that build upon the security principles used to create Google's own Titan security chips.
"OpenTitan's aim is to build and maintain a high-quality logically-secure silicon design, including reference firmware, verification collateral, and technical documentation," OpenTitan's site explained.
While Google is involved in OpenTitan, the non-profit community LowRisc will head up the project, with help from the likes of Western Digital and ETH Zurich.
How exactly will OpenTitan deliver it's proposed security chops? Well, we'll hand you over to ETH Zurich's Luca Benini, professor at the Institute for Integrated Systems, to shed some light on that.
"OpenTitan monitors the computer as it starts up - in what is known as the boot process. Like a newborn baby, a computer requires special protection in the seconds after it is switched on. The 'firmware' - that is, the software that controls the boot process - is active before the antivirus software is operational, for example. Many attacks therefore target these first few seconds and attempt to compromise the firmware," said Benini.
"If this attempt succeeds, the attackers can take control of the system without being noticed. OpenTitan checks whether the code generated by the firmware matches the expected code. If it doesn't, the boot process is terminated."
One OpenTitan really gears up, you could expect to see such dedicated security hardware in various servers and data centres. But there's also a good chance that things learnt from the project could filter down into the consumer world, and say the Pixel 5 could come with a dedicated security chip and hardware features. µ
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