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Passing NIST CAVP validation, Macronix ArmorFlash takes memory security to a new level
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Electronics systems continue to grow in complexity as automotive electronics and a diverse range of smart applications feature ever higher levels of integration. When artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) Vehicle to Everything (V2X) technologies, and 5G adoption that everyone is talking about, falls in place, it paints a clear picture of people's future for which information security becomes a concern for semiconductor solutions.

The implementation of information security has traditionally been dictated by leading processor developers as processors have the computing power to efficiently handle large amounts of data. However, a new trend is emerging; entrusting memory chip suppliers with information protection. Macronix, as a leading manufacturer of nonvolatile memory solutions, has brought to market high-end secure memory ArmorFlash to address users' needs to guarantee the confidentiality, integrity and availability of digital data. With the launch of ArmorFlash, Macronix also looks to satisfy market demand and strengthen long-term partnerships to help customers secure valuable information.

In an interview, Donald Huang, PhD, director of product marketing at Macronix, noted that native functionality including data encryption and decryption, identity authentication and anti-tamper protection, combined with a "physical unclonable function" (PUF) code providing a very strong form of unique identification, form the core security technology of ArmorFlash. Designed for wide-ranging information security applications, ArmorFlash is implemented with data encryption, that prevents unauthorized access and features a wide range of data-protection technologies, including native identity authentication, crypto keys and secure boot enhancements.

ArmorFlash's security core comprises four design pillars: Monotonic Counter, True Random Number Generator (TRNG), PUF Code, and an AES Hardware Crypto Engine, enabling robust protection against data corruption and malware implants. An example use case is the adoption of ArmorFlash on NVIDIA DRIVE AGX Xavier and Pegasus Platforms in high-performance Level 2+ to Level 5 autonomous driving systems. This partnership sets a good example, where system information reliability is maximized and potential security risks are minimized throughout the product lifecycle from deployment, installation to long-term operation for autonomous driving systems. Moreover, it demonstrates ArmorFlash's tremendous potential for use in other applications such as industrial automation and IoT.

Passing CAVP certification, ArmorFlash next targets FIPS 140-2 certification

With the advent of 5G, network communication will become increasingly open and data exchanges at low latency and high bandwidth will become the norm. This will make digital data ever more vulnerable to security threats. In view of this, Macronix has introduced the MX78 series of its secure ArmorFlash product following the launch of its MX75 ArmorFlash. One of the most important goals for optimum security assurance is to obtain FIPS 140-2 certification. FIPS 140-2, short for Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2, that specifies the standards used by non-military U.S. government agencies and their contractors to approve cryptographic modules. It is also widely accepted by the industry to validate the design and implementation of a cryptographic module.

Macronix's ArmorFlash has passed validation testing by laboratories accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP), which is a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) program, and has received Cryptographic Algorithm Validation Program (CAVP) certification. Macronix's ArmorFlash is now included in NIST's validation list. The next step will be to pass FIPS 140-2 Cryptographic Module Validation Program (CMVP) certification. Consumers will have more confidence when they choose information security products certified by industry standards.

Asymmetric cryptography enables a higher level of data protection

According to Huang, MX78 implements asymmetric cryptography, also known as asymmetric Elliptic-curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) key exchange. This can eliminate the risks of a data breach resulting from hardware theft or loss and is a focus of attention among security implementations of electronics hardware components. It allows the system to operate in a protected, isolated environment to allow critical procedures to be executed in a trusted environment that shields against cyber attacks.

The MX78 is also certified to be compliant with the rigorous AEC-Q100 standard for automotive applications. Supporting 1.8V and 3V operating voltages, it can be used with mainstream controllers and processors from leading automotive chip suppliers. With a wide operating temperature range between -40 degree C and +125 degree C, The MX78 ideally supports data storage and processing in limited footprint scenarios on automobiles. Sampling of the MX78 is now available to major customers. For example, Macronix is actively seeking opportunities for the integration of the MX78 in high-end autonomous driving systems.

Huang highlighted that Macronix is making the the MX75 and MX78 available to meet burgeoning the challenges of designing secure storage in automotive systems. They will also come with a wide range of density offerings to accommodate diverse requirements and applications. Macronix ArmorFlash offers these solutions in BGA, SOP or KGD packages. Macronix is projecting a strong presence in the automotive market while also catering to secure memory requirements in in flourishing IoT, smart home and industrial automation applications.

Donald Huang, Ph.D., director of product marketing at Macronix

Donald Huang, PhD, director of product marketing at Macronix

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