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Arm Cortex-M35P Locks Back Doors

June 26, 2018

Author: Mike Demler

To protect sensitive personal data and thwart attacks in IoT, medical, and other secure embedded systems, Arm has created a new line of intellectual property (IP) with built-in antitampering features. All the new cores carry a “P” designation that indicates additional physical-security features. They include a Cortex-M CPU, CryptoCell cryptography engine, and CryptoIsland secure enclave.

To create the Cortex-M35P, Arm added several antitampering features to a Cortex-M33-based CPU. The new core employs techniques the company first developed for its SecurCores, which are popular in smartcards. Whereas the latest SC300 SecurCore is a tamper-resistant design based on Cortex-M3, the new CPU employs Cortex-M33, adding another layer of protection against software attacks by implementing Arm v8-M’s TrustZone features.

Cortex-M35P builds on TrustZone by protecting against tampering and side-channel attacks. Such attacks occur when a hacker uses nonintrusive means to exploit a device’s physical behavior—for example, by analyzing timing patterns in a processor’s power-supply spikes or by detecting pulse sequences in its electromagnetic radiation.

The CryptoCell-312P upgrades a version the company introduced with Cortex-M23/M33. In addition to accelerating symmetric and asymmetric cryptography, its functions include certificate generation, SHA-256 hashing, key-provisioning management, and a true-random-number generator. The CryptoCell-312/312P works with TrustZone to establish a hardware root of trust (RoT).

Arm’s CryptoIsland secure-enclave IP is a complete standalone RoT subsystem that operates independently of the other P-series components. The CryptoIsland-300P brings protection against a range of side-channel attacks to an earlier model that rolled out with the Arm Platform Security Architecture. For instance, it can protect against electromagnetic and power analysis. All products in the new P-series are available for licensing now.

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