Department of Computer Science and Technology

Technical reports

Cryptographic processors – a survey

Ross Anderson, Mike Bond, Jolyon Clulow, Sergei Skorobogatov

August 2005, 19 pages

DOI: 10.48456/tr-641


Tamper-resistant cryptographic processors are becoming the standard way to enforce data-usage policies. Their history began with military cipher machines, and hardware security modules used to encrypt the PINs that bank customers use to authenticate themselves to ATMs. In both cases, the designers wanted to prevent abuse of data and key material should a device fall into the wrong hands. From these specialist beginnings, cryptoprocessors spread into devices such as prepayment electricity meters, and the vending machines that sell credit for them. In the 90s, tamper-resistant smartcards became integral to GSM mobile phone identification and to key management in pay-TV set-top boxes, while secure microcontrollers were used in remote key entry devices for cars. In the last five years, dedicated crypto chips have been embedded in devices from games console accessories to printer ink cartridges, to control product and accessory aftermarkets. The ‘Trusted Computing’ initiative will soon embed cryptoprocessors in PCs so that they can identify each other remotely.

This paper surveys the range of applications of tamper-resistant hardware, and the array of attack and defence mechanisms which have evolved in the tamper-resistance arms race.

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BibTeX record

  author =	 {Anderson, Ross and Bond, Mike and Clulow, Jolyon and
          	  Skorobogatov, Sergei},
  title = 	 {{Cryptographic processors -- a survey}},
  year = 	 2005,
  month = 	 aug,
  url = 	 {},
  institution =  {University of Cambridge, Computer Laboratory},
  doi = 	 {10.48456/tr-641},
  number = 	 {UCAM-CL-TR-641}