The analog side of the embedded security in SoC designs

Article By : Majeen Ahmad

Analog monitors such clocks and voltage sensors can oversee the underlying analog behavior of an SoC for potential signs of security threats.

In Agile Analog’s recent announcement to join hands with Belgium-based Silex Insight and jointly market analog and digital IP solutions for developers of mixed-signal systems, security is high on the agenda. Besides data conversion, power management and sensing, Agile Analog will provide protection against side-channel attacks (SCA) and tampering through an array of configurable sensors that detect temperature shocks, supply voltage changes and glitches, and clock manipulation.

The embedded security is increasingly associated with digital IPs, as contributed by Silex Insight in this particular collaboration. Silex will provide digital security IP cores for secure boot, device authentication, cryptographic acceleration, and secure keys generation and storage. On the other hand, Agile’s expertise lies in the detection and prevention of ‘analog interference’ cyberattacks that circumvent traditional security measures by tampering with underlying systems like power supply levels or clock signals.

High-level security for system-on-chips (SoCs) calls for a combination of analog and digital building blocks.

The side-channel attacks—such as voltage and clock glitching, brownouts, and temperature variations—can be used to gain access to a chip’s internal circuitry. The Cambridge, England-based IP supplier offers a parallel range of “smart” monitors in the analog domain. That includes voltage, temperature, and timing sensors to detect side-channel attacks or anomalous behavior that could indicate a cyberattack.

Agile Analog’s partnership with a digital expert like Silex Insight is an effort to create a holistic embedded cybersecurity ecosystem. The partnership will integrate data from analog monitors such as clock and voltage and temperature sensors into embedded security solutions of SoC designs. In other words, it will monitor the underlying analog behavior of an SoC for potential signs of suspicious or unexpected activity.

At a time when the embedded security technology has become synonymous with digital building blocks such as secure boot and cryptographic keys, Agile’s collaboration with digital IP suppliers demonstrates the critical importance of underlying analog behavior. More importantly, it shows that there is a crucial analog dimension to the embedded security and threats like side-channel attacks.

This article was originally published on Planet Analog.

Majeed Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of EDN, has covered the electronics design industry for more than two decades.


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