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VIA C7 Adds Security Features
Posted on 14-Mar-2006 22:51 by H Willan. | Tags Filed under: News.

VIA’s new C7 Processors range, including the C7-M ULV and the C7s with their new EPIA EN-Series include 5 new security features implemented in hardware that are usually done through software.

These features include a Secure Hash Algorithm, AES Encryption, Montgomery Multiplier, NX Execute Protection and Random Number Generator.

All of these free the processor up by having this done as specific operations in hardware rather than software implementations.

The Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA-1 and SHA-256) is generally used to sign content and for secure data transmissions, usually SSH tunnels between secure office locations. This hardware solution allows the data to be encrypted at 20 Gigabits per second (Gbps) or about 2.5 GigaBytes per second (GBps)

AES Encryption is used mainly for streaming across insecure connections and encoding data on disks. The output generated by AES is much larger than Secure Hash, so its typical use is file encryption. The VIA impleementation can process data at 25Gbps or about 3.125GBps.

The Montgomery Multiplier is a tool to assist users with encryption using the RSA public key algorithm. The RSA technique is a method of encryption that allows two parties to communicate with each other across unsecured lines where neither party knows where the other one is before or during the communication.

NX Execute, also known as “no execute/execute disable bit” is designed to block malware (worms) from executing and exploiting buffer-overflows, in turns preventing the worms from propagating themselves. Intel have also integrated this hardware feature into their processors, since 2001 with their Itanium for servers and later their Desktop (Q4 2004) and Mobile (Q1 2005) processors.

Operating Systems that support this feature are Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2; Microsoft Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1; Suse Linux 9.2; RedHat Enterprise Linux 3 update 3.

For all methods of securing information available today, the strength of key generation and encryption foundations are based on the quality of random numbers. The VIA Random Number Generator base their randomness on the movement patterns of electrons under certain conditions. Movement patterns in electrons are highly random. In fact, an entire field of physics exists to describe the behaviour of electrons, called Quantum Mechanics.

The more random a set of numbers chosen for the key and encryption process, the stronger the foundation it will have. A stronger foundation makes it harder for hackers to break the encrypted data and reveal the contents.

More information is available from VIA and Intel.

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