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Chapter 17. Security

A system that offers a certain level of security, a trusted system, is one that protects assets, for example passwords and cryptographic keys, or credit card details, from a range of plausible attacks, to prevent them from being copied or damaged, or made unavailable.

Security is usually defined by the principles of Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. Confidentiality is a key security concern for assets such as passwords and cryptographic keys. Defense against modification and proof of authenticity is vital for security software and on-chip secrets used for security. Examples of trusted systems might include entry of passwords for mobile payments, digital rights management, and e-ticketing. Security is harder to achieve in the world of open systems, where you can download a wide range of software onto a platform, inadvertently also downloading malicious or untrusted code, which can tamper with your system.

Mobile devices can be used to view videos, listen to music, play games, or for browsing the Web and accessing financial services. This requires both the user and the bank or service provider to trust the device. The device runs a complex OS with high levels of connectivity and might be vulnerable to attack by malicious software. You can achieve some measure of security through software system design, but you can obtain higher levels of protection through the CPU and system level memory partitioning.

ARM processors include specific hardware extensions to enable construction of trusted systems. Writing a trusted OS or Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) systems is outside the scope of this book. However, if you set the Security fractional field to implement the ARMv7 Security Extensions, be aware that this imposes some restrictions on the OS and on unprivileged code, in other words, code that is not part of the trusted system.

Software and hardware attacks can be classified into the following categories:

Software attacks

Attacks by malicious software typically do not require physical access to the device and can exploit vulnerabilities in the operating system or an application.

Simple hardware attacks

These are usually passive, mostly non-destructive attacks that require access to the device and exposure to the electronics, and use commonly available tools such as logic probes and JTAG run-control units.

Laboratory hardware attack

This kind of attack requires sophisticated and expensive tools, such as Focused Ion Beam (FIB) techniques or power analysis techniques, and is more commonly used against smartcard devices.

TrustZone technology is designed to protect against software and simple hardware attacks.