Broadcom, NCipher To Build Secure Chips

Broadcom and nCipher will develop computer chips that can quickly process encrypted Internet data and tighten security.
Chipmaker Broadcom Corp. and security specialist nCipher plc said Tuesday they will develop computer chips that can quickly process encrypted Internet data, allowing for tighter security and reduced network traffic.

The alliance aims to exploit the growing use of encryption protocols on the Internet, where Web sites increasingly are using standards such as Secure Sockets Layer to encrypt sensitive data such as credit-card transactions. This encryption is often applied at the Web server, but that causes a problem for businesses, since the complicated cryptographic processing bogs the machine down and slows traffic.

One solution to the problem is to use SSL accelerating devices, which do the encryption dirty work themselves, sparing the Web server. These devices can be either external hardware, sitting between the client and the server, or internal devices installed inside the server. But there's a problem with external accelerators: After being decrypted, the data flows unsecured between accelerator and server, posing a security risk. In many industries, including finance and health care, that's more than a security risk--it's against federal law.

With this partnership, nCipher will first build Broadcom's chips into its existing PCI card SSL accelerators, says Richard Moulds, nCipher's VP of marketing. But ultimately, he says, nCipher will embed its SSL technology into Broadcom's network hardware, such as routers and switches, allowing them to handle the encrypted data without need for accelerators. Says Moulds, "In the future, you can imagine the technology becoming part of the Broadcom chip."