ARM Joint Venture Aims at Mobile Security, Will Rival Intel-McAfee Efforts

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2012-04-03

ARM Joint Venture Aims at Mobile Security, Will Rival Intel-McAfee Efforts

ARM Holdings, whose chip designs power almost all smartphones and tablets on the market, is teaming up with two European security companies to create a joint venture to create a common security standard for such mobile devices.

ARM officials announced April 3 that they are teaming up with Gemalto and Giesecke & Devrient to create a standard for everything from smartphones and tablets to games consoles and smart televisions. The goal is to bring security closer to the hardware, making the devices more secure and fueling greater innovation around products and services, according to ARM.

ARM€™s partnership with Gemalto and Giesecke & Devrient mirrors what Intel is looking to do through its $7.68 billion acquisition of security software maker McAfee last year. In announcing the McAfee deal, Intel officials said that traditional security software approaches could not adequately address the billions of new network-connected devices€”including PCs, mobile devices, TVs, cars, appliances and medical devices€”that were coming onto the market. They argued that such devices needed to bring security closer to the hardware to make it more reliable.

In addition, security increasingly was becoming a key issue among computer users, right up there with energy-efficient performance and connectivity, Intel officials said.

ARM CEO Warren East echoed those sentiments.

"The integration of the hardware, software and services necessary for system-wide security has been slow,€ East said in a statement. "I am confident that this new joint venture will accelerate the adoption of a common security standard, enabling a vibrant ecosystem of secure service providers to emerge. This will be a significant step in terms of improved consumer trust in secure transactions on connected devices."

Products from the joint venture will be based on solutions from the three companies and will give manufacturers technology they can use to better secure their devices, according to ARM officials. Gemalto and Giesecke & Devrient, both of which have been ARM partners, offer security solutions to governments as well as the financial and mobile industries, the companies said. All three will bring technologies, people, equipment and money to the project, with ARM owning 40 percent of it and the other two companies owning 30 percent each.

Ben Cade, vice president and general manager of ARM€™s Secure Services Division, will be the CEO of the joint venture. The initiative is subject to regulatory approval, according to the companies.

Trusted Execution Environment


The new company will create what officials are calling a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) based on ARM€™s TrustZone security product. The TEE will use both hardware security technology and industry-standard software interfaces, including interfaces from the GlobalPlatform industry association, the officials said. Devices with a TEE will offer consumers a device that will give them greater sense of security when performing transactions on the Internet, such as making mobile payments, banking and running work applications, they said.

"ARM integrates its TrustZone architecture into every ARM Cortex-A family processor to help our silicon partners deliver the deepest level of security in their hardware,€ ARM€™s Cade said in a statement. €œThe new venture will combine the security operations from three leading organizations. This will provide a trusted software environment capable of utilizing security from the hardware level up, in a consistent, open and accessible manner.€

The joint venture is only the latest proof point of the pending competition between Intel and ARM, as each looks to expand their reach into markets now dominated by the other. Intel is looking to become a significant player in the booming mobile computing space, while ARM and its manufacturing partners intend to bring their high-performance, low-power chip technology into PCs and low-power servers.

Security continues to be a key issue for mobile device users. During the Intel Developer Forum in September 2011, Intel and McAfee introduced DeepSAFE, a hardware-software platform aimed at preventing security and data breaches, block intrusions and stop malicious software from being installed on a device.

With DeepSAFE, the McAfee Endpoint Protection software hooks onto a chip€™s security features, providing a deeper security footprint and allowing the software to gain visibility into malware that operates before the operating system, according to Intel. Some of this malware can be difficult to detect.

DeepSAFE was the first indication of how Intel officials plan to incorporate McAfee security capabilities into their processors. In October 2011, McAfee introduced two products based on DeepSAFE: Deep Defender to protect endpoints and Deep Command, an addition to McAfee€™s ePolicy Orchestrator platform that gives security administrators secure remote access to devices.

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