Broadcom Chip Guards the Door for Businesses

A new Broadcom chip promises to better secure the authentication process involved in granting employees access to buildings and even computer networks.

Broadcom is promising to use silicon to beef up office security.

The chip maker on June 27 released its Broadcom BCM5890 secure processor, an RFID (radio-frequency identification)-enabled security chip thats designed to better protect the personal authentication process when granting employees access to buildings and even computer networks.

By offering enhanced protection for access credentials and for the storage of cryptographic keys, as well as delivering a companion developer kit, the chip maker hopes to spawn a new generation of access devices.

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"What were adding is processing capability so you can have a lot more power and do a lot more things…and you can put it into a number of applications," said Greg Youngblood, director of marketing for Broadcoms Security Business in Irvine, Calif.

Broadcoms main targets, initially, are handheld access devices carried by employees. Although it expects to see its chips used for network access, financial payments and even digital identification as well, Youngblood said.

The BCM5890 does its work by storing sensitive data in hardware—in this case flash memory—which Broadcom said raises the difficulty of fooling the system by obtaining or altering credential information.

The chip incorporates RSAs SecureID technology and fingerprint reader along with its RFID tag and ARM processor.

That means "any code keys or credentials that are out there in your storage are both encrypted and authenticated…as well as the [credential] match process being protected," Youngblood said.

The BCM5890 is sampling to customers now and will cost $15 a piece when purchased in lots of 10,000, he said.

Broadcom expects several different vendors to use the chip in access devices. Some devices will fit on key rings. Although it also believes some manufacturers might build them into cellular phones and PCs.

"Instead of having plastic card, you can simply use one of biometric [modules] or your cell phone as your credential to get into your office," Youngblood said.

HID, an Irvine, Calif., manufacturer of physical access devices such as card readers, is one company that Broadcom said will incorporate the technology associated with its BCM5890.

Another company, Privaris of Fairfax, Va., will use the BCM5890 chip in its forthcoming plusID personal biometric authentication device, due in September, Youngblood said.

The plusID, which attaches to a key ring, uses wireless as well as a fingerprint reader for jobs such as physical and network access, Youngblood said.

Broadcom believes the new chip will augment other security technologies, including hard drive encryption tools such as Microsofts Windows Vista Bitlocker feature, he said.

Given that those technologies often involve using a password to gain access, "adding something like this to secure that scenario could be a smart thing to do," Youngblood said.

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