Hardware Encryption Developed for New Computer Memory Technology

Security concerns are one of the key obstacles to the adoption of new non-volatile main memory (NVMM) technology in next-generation computers, which would improve computer start times and boost memory capacity. But now researchers from North Carolina State University have developed new encryption hardware for use with NVMM to protect personal information and other data.

NVMM technologies, such as phase-change memory, hold great promise to replace conventional dynamic random access memory (DRAM) in the main memory of computers. NVMM would allow computers to start instantly, and can fit more memory into the same amount of space used by existing technologies. However, NVMM poses a security risk.

Conventional DRAM main memory does not store data once the computer is turned off. That means, for example, that it doesn’t store your credit card number and password after an online shopping spree. NVMM, on the other hand, retains all user data in main memory even years after the computer is turned off.

This feature could give criminals access to your personal information or other data if your laptop or smart phone were stolen. And, because the data in the NVMM is stored in main memory, it cannot be encrypted using software. Software cannot manage main memory functions, because software itself operates in main memory.

NC State researchers have developed a solution using a hardware encryption system called i-NVMM. Continue reading…

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