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AMD Security Hardware IT

AMD and ARM Team Up 108

Vigile writes "Today AMD is making an announcement that is the first step in a drastic transition for the company by integrating an ARM Cortex A5 processor on the same die with upcoming Fusion APUs. Starting in late 2013, all AMD APUs (processors that are combinations of x86 cores and Radeon SIMD arrays) will also integrate an ARM Cortex A5 processor to handle security for online transactions, banking, identity protection and DRM integration. The A5 is the smallest Cortex processor available, and that would make sense to use it in a full APU so it will not take up more than 10-15 square mm of die space. This marks the first time AMD has licensed ARM technology and while many people were speculating a pure ARM+Radeon hybrid, this move today is being described as the 'first step' for AMD down a new road of dexterity as an IP-focused technology company with their GPU technology as 'the crown jewel.' So while today's announcement might focus on using ARM processors for security purposes, the future likely holds much more these two partners."
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AMD and ARM Team Up

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  • OMG TPM (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @02:54PM (#40312633)

    Before you start flaming about DRM and TPM taking over your computer and all, please remember that all TPM chips currently available allow you to install your own keys. This hardware root of trust allows you to verify that your Linux installation has not been tampered with. It also is a good place to store hard disk encryption keys, because the TPM chip makes it extremely difficult to do brute force attacks on your password. I simply can not imagine why anybody would intentionally buy a modern computer without these wonderful capabilities.

  • by draconx ( 1643235 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @03:13PM (#40312847) Homepage
    From the summary, which also appears in TFA:

    The A5 is the smallest Cortex processor available

    Really? I figured that the Cortex-M0 would be smaller. The M0 doesn't even have a cache. Indeed, ARM's Cortex-M0 product page [arm.com] agrees, saying:

    The ARM Cortex(tm)-M0 processor is the smallest ARM processor available.

    so it's not clear why the article is calling the A5 the smallest?

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @03:14PM (#40312859) Journal
    Modules intended for DRM purposes are commonly limited to those purposes because running extra code, especially code from random untrusted people, makes your DRM more vulnerable. In this case, AMD seems to be incorporating ARM's "Trustzone" [arm.com] stuff. That does support running vendor-customized software within the 'secure' region; but the suggested implementable does not make that user-modifiable. The rest of it is the usual morass of DRM 'goodies': memory locations 'protected' from access by non 'trusted' software, device unique master key, etc, etc.

    That's pretty much why you would have a separate DRM module at all, when you already have a perfectly good x86 core to work with...

    It is interesting that AMD appears to be throwing their hat in with this ARM stuff, rather than the 'Trusted Computing Group's TPM, available from a number of vendors on x86s already; but the expected use cases are every bit as malignant...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @03:31PM (#40313161)

    It is the smallest core with TrustZone support. The article is wrong.

  • Re:what (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chuckstar ( 799005 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @05:10PM (#40314629)

    Now that I've read more, I think I was only partially correct. It looks more like the main reason to go with ARM is that there was a fully-baked hardware/software solution already in place around ARM's implementation of TPM. So AMD could sort of glom on to the whole thing.

  • by Suiggy ( 1544213 ) on Thursday June 14, 2012 @12:07AM (#40318895)

    It's not a mere TPM solution. It's a Cortex A5 core. AMD has been pushing their Fusion Systems Architecture for heterogeneous SoCs, so it's likely that the Cortex A5 will be programmable by developers through OpenCL. The TPM thing is just what the marketing people envision as one of its uses, but it could be used for anything... it's left up to developers imaginations to find something more worthwhile than TPM.

    You could use it as a dedicated audio decoder and DSP, for example, as the OpenCL vector math functions will map directly to the NEON SIMD instructions.

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin