Researchers at IBM have come up with a way to hardwire encryption
technology into a microprocessor, promising a more secure way to store
IBM plans to announce availability of the new technology, dubbed Secure
Blue, on Monday. The Armonk, N.Y.-based company envisions its idea and
technology will be used in digital media players, electronic
organizers, cell phones, computers and devices used by the government
and the medical and financial industries.
With Secure Blue, data is encrypted and decrypted as it runs
through a processor, according to IBM. It is maintained encrypted in
the device memory, or RAM. One of the few times data would not be
scrambled is when it is actually displayed.
"There is a lot of concern about leakage of data," Charles
Palmer, manager security and privacy at IBM, said in an interview. "If
you have an architecture where that information is always encrypted,
you go a long way to protect your data."
Secure Blue requires a few circuits to be added to a
microprocessor, taking up a small percentage of the overall silicon
real estate, according to IBM. The encryption and decryption happens
on-the-fly, without any processor overhead, the company said.
The hardwired security technology can be used for multiple
purposes, not all of which necessarily serve the device owner. It can protect data
when a person’s computer or device is lost, stolen or hacked, for
example. But content owners can also use it for enforcement of
copyright, called digital rights management (DRM), which critics have
called a scourge to user freedom.