Neohapsis is currently accepting applications for employment. For more information, please visit our website www.neohapsis.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
From: Alex Russell (alex_at_netWindows.org)
Date: Thu Sep 19 2002 - 19:56:55 CDT
On Thursday 19 September 2002 16:44, Michael McKay wrote:
> On Tue, Sep 03, 2002 at 09:03:40PM -0400, Yannick Gingras wrote:
> > This make me wonder about the relative protection of smart cards.
> They have an internal procession unit around 4MHz. Can we consider them as
> trusted hardware ?
SmartCards do not have fixed clock rates (more often than not) as the ISO spec
dictates that they are externally powered and clocked, but SmartCards used
for security purposes (usually JavaCards) have built-in crypto co-processors
that make clock rate irrelevant. 4mhz SmartCards can often preform triple-DES
faster than general purpose processors clocked at ten times the speed.
That said, clock rate has nothing with how trustworthy a card is. As Michael
pointed out, there's something of an arms-race between manufacturers and
attackers which has nothing to do with clock rate, and time and time again
what we've seen is that it's not a question of "is it secure", it's a
question of "who is it secure from and for how long?" Security is rarely a
question of absolutes (despite the often boolean nature of a break), rather
it's a question of assessing, quantifying, and managing risk. SmartCards are
designed to address threats in which the cost of protection cannot exceed the
$1-20 range (depending on the application).
As whether or not they are "trusted hardware", the question again revolves
around attacker and timeframe. One might expect a bored undergrad EE student
to have more trouble revealing the contents of a pilfered smartcard than,
say, a governtment intelligence service. If your goal is to keep undergrad
EEs from perpetrating mass fraud in the caffeteria, then a smartcard is
likely "trustworthy" enough for your application. If your aim is to protect
ICBM launch codes, then it's probably the wrong tool. In either application,
a risk/cost ratio must justify the use of the protection measure in question.
-- Alex Russell alexSecurePipe.com alexnetWindows.org