Alif Semiconductor delivers advanced on-chip security solution

2 mins read

Alif Semiconductor, a supplier of Edge AI-enabled secure MCUs and fusion processors, has announced an advanced on-chip security solution.

What’s described as a unique security architecture brings together a combination of technologies which include an integrated Secure Enclave with its own resources and a highly configurable secure firewall structure, multiple general purpose and neural processing cores with secure communication between them, and in-factory creation of unique device key pairs within every device.

According to Alif it has leveraged all these elements to secure the next wave of deployed Edge devices that are powered by advanced processing including Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML).

The Secure Enclave, standard in every device of the Ensemble family, is a dedicated isolated subsystem for management of vital security functions like secure key management and storage, secure boot with an immutable Root-of-Trust, attestation at run-time using certificates, hardware cryptographic services, secure debugging, read-out protection, secure firmware updates, power management, and complete lifecycle management.

During manufacturing, the Secure Enclave establishes the required trust foundation by creating and storing unique device key pairs internally which can be used to identify and authenticate each device, eliminating the need for external equipment such as a Hardware Security Module (HSM) to inject the keys. Consequently, every device and every customer can establish a chain of trust from the network to the device, by design, without introducing any complex, risky, or costly third-party dependencies to inject secrets, even after end-products are deployed in the field.

The Alif Ensemble family scales from single core to a new class of multi-core devices, that combine up to two Cortex-M55 MCU cores, up to two Cortex-A32 microprocessor cores capable of running high-level operating systems, and up to two Ethos-U55 microNPUs for AI/ML acceleration.

For each CPU core, developers can allocate any portion of memory, or any individual peripheral, either shared or separated, using the Secure Enclave because of its unique firewall mechanism. Not only does this grant great flexibility to the developer but also infuses a high level of system security with durable separation of resources between multiple processing subsystems as well as secure and non-secure operations.

This extends security well beyond the capabilities of traditional Arm TrustZone that is optimised for single-core operation.

The Secure Enclave itself will always boot from a known good ROM image, allowing it to validate that no other parts of the system have been maliciously interfered with before allowing code to begin executing on any of the application cores.

The Secure Enclave ensures one-way progress through the life cycle of the chip and the end-product from manufacture, to development, to deployment, to maintenance, to retirement. This blocks cloning, rollbacks, malware, and IP theft.