Silicon Labs First to Achieve PSA Certified Level 3 Status for Wireless SoC

Article By : Nitin Dahad

Silicon Labs has become the world's first silicon vendor awarded the highest level of IoT security certification under PSA Certified Level 3.

Silicon Labs said it has become the world’s first silicon vendor to achieve PSA Certified level 3 status for its EFR32MG21 Series 2 wireless system on chip (SoC) incorporating Secure Vault technology. This is the highest level of internet of things (IoT) security certification under the PSA Certified program, which provides lab-based evaluation evidence of the ability to defend against local hardware as well as remote software attacks.

Matt Johnson Silicon Labs
Matt Johnson

In an interview with EE Times, Matt Johnson, senior vice president of IoT at Silicon Labs, said achieving this certification is significant. “Physical attacks are real, and PSA Certified level 3 adds physical attack vectors to security assurance. Why does this matter? Well, I believe that we are still very early in the growth of IoT, and its full potential hasn’t yet been realized. It will only reach this potential if there’s trust. This level of certification is another layer of confidence that customers can get from a vendor to enable that security and trust.”

The chief system architect at Arm, Andy Rose, said, “As attacks on IoT applications continue to rise and grow in complexity, the importance of securing devices at the chip level remains crucial. Silicon Labs is the first silicon provider to achieve PSA Certified level 3 status, demonstrating a proven PSA root of trust (RoT) and a solution that offers substantial protection against an extensive range of sophisticated software and hardware attacks.”

Johnson added, “The continued growth of the IoT depends on trusting that devices are authentic and secure when they join ecosystems. Security certifications like PSA Certified level 3 give IoT device makers and end users the assurances they need to know their IoT applications are protecting their secret identities used for authentication and prevent counterfeit or rogue devices from entering their supply chain, which can cause irreparable harm to brands and revenue. Silicon Labs is passionate about innovating the silicon, software and solutions needed to ensure the IoT grows safely and securely for the consumers, businesses, and industries we serve.”

The PSA Certified program was co-founded by Arm in 2017 to provide a clear framework for securing connected devices, from analysis to security assessment and certification. The framework provides standardized resources to resolve the growing fragmentation of IoT requirements and remove security as a barrier for product development.

PSA Certified offers three levels of security assurance. Level 1 ensures basic security principles have bene applied in alignment with major industry standards and government regulations. Levels 2 and 3 involved lab-based evaluations of the root of trust (RoT), with level 2 providing evidence of protection against scalable remote software attacks, and level 3 against physical attack. At PSA Certified level 3, silicon vendors need to meet requirements on a complex protection profile which covers substantial protection from a range of sophisticated software and physical IoT attack vectors.

Silicon Labs’ Secure Vault, which delivers the stringent security software and PUF (physical unclonable function) hardware requirements as defined by PSA Certified level 3, reduces the risk of IoT ecosystem security breaches and the compromise of intellectual property or revenue loss from counterfeiting. Specifically, Secure Vault technology:

  • Protects against scalable local and remote software attacks
  • Defends against local hardware attacks, which – although historically less common than software attacks – are on the rise due to the surge of affordable and easily accessible tools
  • Passes testing from independent third-party laboratories that attempt to infringe security functions for a specified amount of time with sophisticated equipment.

Launched in 2020, Secure Vault is a suite that includes its own security core with its own ROM, RAM, and Flash containing core crypto algorithms and true random number generator (TRNG) functions; it also includes secure key management and storage, physical tamper protection, as well as a secure identity created by the chip itself at manufacture and anchored by a Silicon Labs root certificate chain. In 2020, Secure Vault achieved PSA Certified level 2 status and also earned ioXt Alliance SmartCert certification for its strong IoT security protection. In October 2020, the ioXt Alliance selected PSA Certified as a foundational RoT scheme in its certification program.

Johnson said that once trust and security is better established and ingrained into device manufacturers’ thinking, the IoT market will grow further. “There are probably about six or seven connected devices per person today, and that could easily get to 20-25 devices per person at some point.”

He said that currently, Silicon Labs has seen three key areas of IoT growth: shelf labels, smart metering and medical. “Shelf labels have exploded because of the ability to change pricing; we’ve seen rapid movement in smart metering; and in the current environment, we’ve seem limitless ideas for adoption in medical, partly related to the pandemic.”

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