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Broadcom says Crypto code is old hat - but it's not

By PETER WHITE

Published: 22 September, 2011

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A few weeks back we told you about how Cryptography Research (CRI) has managed to get its CryptoFirewall onto two of most famous set top chips, those from Broadcom and from ST Micro and then everyone at IBC (Europe's biggest broadcaster conference) kept teasing us that this achievement was no big deal.

Broadcom even went so far as to say that it has had 85 different security blocks on its chips and that they come and go. We scratched our heads and talked to a few others specialists at the show, and went back to CRI, who after all has had some of its piracy countermeasures included on 5 billion chips and smartcards.

What we found is that there are quite a few hardware sub-blocks involved in Broadcom System on a Chip (SoC) security areas, these just don't do what the CRI logic does, both technically or in terms of what it means to the market.

Other security blocks are often encryption accelerators for AES, 3DES, DVB encryption because software can't keep up with video decryption. But this doesn't make the chip secure. It makes it faster. And there are a number of proprietary bits of security logic placed there by major conditional access providers such as NDS and Nagra. But these only protect a single system and are proprietary and no-one else can trigger them except those companies. And ask yourself, if these were as powerful as smart cards why would those two companies still push smart cards?

What the CRI engine does is allow all of the set top SoC chips to offer the same smart card-like features to any set top maker, using any DRM, on any operating system. So operators can have access to it without choosing a proprietary system. That's what we found significant, and what will undermine conditional access lock-ins everywhere - at least on set tops. (See the rest of this story at www.rethinkresearch.biz)

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