Google launches OpenTitan, an open-source secure chip design project

Zack Whittaker

Google has partnered with several tech companies to develop and build OpenTitan, a new, collaborative open-source secure chip design project.

The aim of the new coalition is to build trustworthy chip designs for use in data centers, storage and computer peripherals, which are both open and transparent, allowing anyone to inspect the hardware for security vulnerabilities and backdoors.

It comes at a time when tech giants and governments alike are increasingly aware that hostile nation states are trying to infiltrate and compromise supply chains in an effort to carry out long-term surveillance or espionage.

OpenTitan builds off the success of Google's own custom-built chip, Titan, which it uses in its multi-factor security keys and its own-brand Android phones. Critical to the chip's success is its root-of-trust technology, which cryptographically ensures that the chip hasn't been tampered with. Root-of-trust provides a solid foundation for the operating system and applications running on the chip.

Google said OpenTitan will be run by LowRisc, a nonprofit community, and will rely on partnerships with ETH Zurich, G+D Mobile Security, Nuvoton Technology and Western Digital to support the project.

OpenTitan will be platform-agnostic and can be adapted to almost any device or software, Google said.

It's not the first project dedicated to building secure chip designs. The Open Compute Project, supported by Facebook, Intel and Google, was created to open-source designs for its core infrastructure servers as part of an effort to gain better efficiencies from data center operations.

Apple also has its own secure — albeit proprietary — custom silicon, the Apple T2, found in its latest MacBooks, which it uses to control a device's security functions and store the user's passwords and encryption keys.

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