Feeds

Trusted computing: It's BACK, and already in a pocket near you

That bulge could be SOMEONE ELSE's tool

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

MWC Trusted Computing, the widely-derided idea of computing secured for, and against, its users, is back and the necessary hardware is already in the majority of pockets.

When Intel and Microsoft tried to introduce Trusted Computing, under the Palladium brand, they were pilloried as betraying the freedoms which had made desktop computing such a dynamic industry. But the same idea lurks in 90 per cent of the ARM chips used in mobile phones, and the software necessary was demonstrated today as the industry has gained by inches what it failed to achieve by revolution.

That demonstration was done by Trusted Logic and Wave Systems, utilising the ARM's TrustZone architecture to create secured storage which could be used to hold immutable data such as a hash of a booted operating system to prevent system alteration; software licence keys to prevent piracy, or even cryptographic identity tokens; or (gasp) to screw over the network operators who currently have a monopoly on that kind of thing.

The companies are demonstrating a package compatible with the Mobile Trusted Module (MTM) specification, put together by the Trusted Computing Group as a mobile version of its desktop specification, but while the original trusted computing never gained popular ground thanks to public outcry the public has come a long way since then. These days computer users seem happier to accept a few limits on their freedom in exchange for better security.

Anyone who's forgotten Trusted Computing would do well to read this 2003 piece from Ross Anderson at Cambridge University. It's worth reading if only to see how much his terrifying vision of the future matches the greatly-appreciated experience of iPhone users today (ironically he posits that Mac users will be locked out of the Microsoft-backed Trusted Computing ecosystem). Anderson thought that trusted computing would put too much control in Microsoft's hands, but these days users have other concerns and legislation has demonstrated that governments would step in to prevent many of the scenarios he suggests.

Wave Systems reckon that ARM's TrustZone is already embedded in 90 per cent of smartphones, and while they're demonstrating on Android the technology is applicable to any platform so it will be interesting to see how/if Windows-on-ARM takes advantage of it. To be secure the cryptographic keys and software, need to be installed during manufacture, so what's being shown in Barcelona is a proof-of-concept rather than something one could deploy onto today's phones - but it's a proof-of-concept which could quickly be integrated if the handset manufacturers wish to.

The SIM providers reckon they've nothing to fear either way. They point out that securing a chip within a phone is much harder than securing a separate module with limited (and well known) interfaces. As banking moves onto the phone that will become more important. Payment applications will be able to choose where they want to live: in the SIM, in a proprietary secure module (such as used by Google Wallet) or in the MTM. Network operators are hoping to be able to charge as much as half a Euro in annual rent for space on the SIM, so the additional competition isn't going to be welcome.

However one looks at it our mobile devices are going to get a lot more secure, and as desktop computing subsides that model will, almost inevitably, become de facto standard. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Same old iPad? NO. The new 'soft SIMs' are BIG NEWS
AppleSIM 'ware to allow quick switch of carriers
Brits: Google, can you scrape 60k pages from web, pleeease
Hey, c'mon Choc Factory, it's our 'right to be forgotten'
Of COURSE Stephen Elop's to blame for Nokia woes, says author
'Google did have some unique propositions for Nokia'
FCC, Google cast eye over millimetre wireless
The smaller the wave, the bigger 5G's chances of success
It's even GRIMMER up North after MEGA SKY BROADBAND OUTAGE
By 'eck! Eccles cake production thrown into jeopardy
Mobile coverage on trains really is pants
You thought it was just *insert your provider here*, but now we have numbers
Don't mess with Texas ('cos it's getting Google Fiber and you're not)
A bit late, but company says 1Gbps Austin network almost ready to compete with AT&T
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.