Google is a company that beyond developing Android, is a leader in Internet services, an area where security is essential. With all that experience, the great G has decided to create OpenTitan, an organization to create open source security chips.
Programs and applications are not the only thing that can be free code, and that is that the processors themselves that have almost any electronic device are also pieces with much intellectual property. In Google they have thought that the best thing they can do is to release some of their technology so that anyone can use it or improve it, and that's how OpenTitan was born.
Titan was already a synonym for security in Google products
Anyone who knows enough about Google products the name of Titan will be familiar, and it is not for less. Already with the Google Pixel 3 the great G presented an integrated security chip called Titan M, which is responsible for the encryption of the information on the device itself.
This security chip is used in your mobile phones, but also in your data centers. For example, if you have a mobile with Android 9 or higher, when you make a backup copy of your information, it is encrypted within Google's data centers by a specific Titan M chip found on Google's servers.
The Android 9 Pie backup is so good that neither Google can access it
Google has added an entry in its blog in which it explains how the backups of Android 9 Pie are so good that not even they can read them.
Another Titan product is the security keys that Google sells to perform a two-step authentication. Titan has become synonymous with security and they want to take it further.
OpenTitan: open source security chips
To expand Titan, Google, in collaboration with several other companies, has created the OpenTitan organization, aimed at creating an open source technology for creating security chips.
And what kind of security do you want to offer? Well, the goal is to be able to create a chip standard with the ability to be a Root of trust (root of trust in Spanish). And what is that root of trust?
Without going into many details, a chip of this category in cryptography is considered as a source of trust. When an application requests a password to decrypt the content, if that code is provided by the security chip, it will be considered valid at all times.
All this technology is extremely complex, and opening it to other companies is expected to continue evolving, just as it offers the ability to adapt the standard to other organizations.
The six key aspects of OpenTitan
- Managed by an independent company: OpenTitan is managed by LowRISC, an organization nonprofit that develops and maintains designs and tools for processors.
- Open source and intended for non-profit organizations, for academic purposes and commercial companies.
- Security through transparency: OpenTitan allows anyone to audit, evaluate and improve the platform.
- High quality intellectual property: ETH Zürich, G + D Mobile Security, Google, lowRISC, Nuvoton Technology, and Western Digital have made their security knowledge available on this platform.
- Modern architecture: OpenTitan is created under the same principles of quality and safety with which Google's Titan chips were created.
- Open to any manufacturer or platform: OpenTitan can be integrated into any type of device, such as data centers, peripherals, mobile or storage devices.
How this can improve security on Android
The arrival of OpenTitan is a great opportunity for Android manufacturers that did not have the resources to offer a dedicated security processor.
It is not that current mobile phones are unprotected, since all ARM processors have a Trusted Execution Environment (secure execution environment). However, in computer security, any additional layer of security is an addition that is appreciated.