News Column

Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Electronic Assembly Comprising a Disabling Module", for Approval

June 19, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Computer Weekly News -- From Washington, D.C., VerticalNews journalists report that a patent application by the inventors Bousquet, Nicolas (Colombes, FR); Sierra, Yannick (Colombes, FR), filed on November 25, 2013, was made available online on June 5, 2014.

No assignee for this patent application has been made.

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention lies within the field of securing electronic devices e.g. terminals or smartcards, comprising several execution environments of which at least one is a trusted execution environment and another is a Rich-OS execution environment.

"A trusted execution environment is implemented by means of a secure processor, possibly being a processor dedicated to this task or possibly having other functions, and a secure rewrite non-volatile memory; it is based on a trusted operating system. Therefore applications depending on the trusted operating system originate from trusted or certified sources over which the user of the terminal has no control.

"Similarly, a Rich-OS execution environment is based on a rich operating system allowing the execution of applications of various origins such as the Internet.

"These two operating systems may be executed for example on one same chipset of the terminal.

"In addition, the trusted operating system has a secure start-up mechanism which verifies that the electronic device starts up in trusted state, by verifying the integrity of the code executed on the electronic device, in particular the code of the trusted operating system. The trusted operating system starts up before any other operating system starts up beforehand.

"If the Rich-OS operating system is corrupt the security of terminal data is no longer guaranteed. To solve this problem, it is known fully to disable the Rich-OS operating system. However this is not a convenient solution for human users since they can no longer use their terminal which is evidently not desirable especially in the event of an emergency (call to an emergency number impossible).

"Also, electronic devices are known which comprise secure elements such as a SIM (UICC) card which is a removable secure element, or an embedded secure element eSE.

"Document U.S. 2002/0186845 proposes a system for disabling access to a secure element of a terminal by sending a blocking message via radio, nevertheless allowing the use of some functions of the terminal which then functions in fail-soft mode.

"However, in the solution disclosed by this document, the task of signalling a security anomaly is up to the user of the terminal and securing of the terminal only takes place insofar as it is requested by the user. Therefore, when the terminal encounters a security anomaly transparent to the user i.e. which goes unnoticed, securing of the terminal does not take place. In addition, the solution proposed in the aforementioned document entails the need to be able to receive a radio signal. Therefore in the case in which the user uses the terminal with insufficient network connection (e.g. network hole or faulty network) or no network connection (e.g. in aircraft mode) securing of the terminal cannot be made.

"As a result there is a need to improve on existing methods for securing electronic devices."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "The present invention mainly sets out to solve the above mentioned drawbacks.

"For this purpose the invention concerns an electronic assembly for electronic device, a trusted operating system and a Rich-OS operating system memorised in a memory of this electronic assembly executed thereupon, and the electronic assembly comprising a module detecting a security anomaly of the Rich-OS operating system and a module to disable at least one secure function of the terminal in response to this detected anomaly, these two modules being implementation-dependent on the trusted operating system, the disablement nevertheless allowing use of the electronic device in fail-soft mode.

"The invention also concerns a method for securing an electronic device on which a trusted operating system and a Rich-OS operating system are executed. The implementation of this method is dependent on the trusted operating system and comprises a step to detect an anomaly of the Rich-OS operating system and, in response to this detection step, a step to disable at least one secure function of the electronic device. The disablement step nevertheless allows use of the electronic device in fail-soft mode.

"The invention additionally concerns a terminal comprising an electronic assembly such as aforementioned. This terminal may a mobile telephone for example but also a touchpad or laptop computer. As a variant, the terminal may be a self-standing or embedded intelligent system widely used in architectures of machine-to-machine type, such as the on-board computer of a vehicle for example.

"As a variant it may be smartcard.

"The invention therefore enables a user of a device to make use thereof in secure manner, firstly because the invention provides for securing of the device when a security anomaly is detected, and secondly because securing of the device nonetheless allows the user to use some functions of the device which then functions in fail-soft mode. Since implementation of the method is dependent on the trusted operating system, the user is able to use the above-mentioned device in full security and reliably. In the solution proposed in the prior art (U.S. 2002/0186845), the security of the device is based on user alertness to any security anomalies which may be encountered by the device, contrary to the present invention which directly entrusts the security of the device with the trusted operating system and the applications thereof.

"In one particular embodiment of the invention, the secure function is either an application of a secure element executed by the electronic device, or an access function to access sensitive data of a secure element, e.g. cryptographic keys, this sensitive data being accessible to the electronic device.

"Therefore the securing of the device is obtained so that non-secure functions still remain available.

"For example, in the case of a mobile telephone, the user is able for example to make calls with the terminal even if some secure functions e.g. payment functions are disabled.

"In one particular embodiment of the invention, the security anomaly is corruption of the Rich-OS operating system.

"Corruption of the Rich-OS operating system may be automatically and/or systematically detected by an integrity verifying module.

"Corruption of the Rich-OS operating system being a harmful phenomenon and often invisible to the user of the electronic device, the invention in this embodiment allows the necessary security steps to be taken to reduce this inconvenience.

"In another embodiment of the invention, the detecting module is able to receive a message containing a securing command.

"This embodiment has the advantage of being able to be remotely initiated. It is of particular advantage for example to secure a stolen or lost electronic device.

"In one particular embodiment of the invention, the disabling module is capable of sending an application disablement command to this application, and of waiting for acknowledgement of disablement of this application. The trusted operating system takes the necessary steps to ensure the security of the electronic device if acknowledgement is negative.

"Therefore, in the event of failure of disablement, the trusted operating system is nevertheless able to take the necessary steps to ensure the security of the electronic device.

"In one particular embodiment of the invention, the detecting module is activated in response to verification of the security of the electronic device, this being triggered:

"on the initiative of the trusted operating system, on startup of the electronic device or at regular intervals; or on the initiative of a user of the electronic device.

"One advantage of this embodiment is that the securing of the electronic device takes place automatically from the user's viewpoint, when verification is conducted on the initiative of the trusted operating system.

"A further advantage of this embodiment is that the user of the electronic device, when doubting the security of the electronic device, is also able to initiate verification. This advantage is of particular interest when the user's electronic device has been lost or stolen, or when the user has conducted operations making his terminal vulnerable such as downloading a dubious application.

"In one particular embodiment of the invention, the steps of the aforementioned method are determined by the instructions of a computer program.

"The invention therefore also concerns a computer program containing instructions for implementing the steps of the method such as described above, when the program is executed by a processor.

"This program may use any programming language, in the form of a source code or object code for example. The program may be compiled and/or interpreted or in any other form interpretable by a processor.

"In one particular embodiment of the invention, this computer program is the trusted operating system.

"In another embodiment of the invention, this computer program is a patch on the trusted operating system. This patch has the advantage of enriching existing API substrates and forms an alternative to a native application of the trusted operating system when said application is unable to propose some services when deployed, or to a native application which cannot be deployed. Said patch therefore proposes additional functionalities to those initially proposed by the trusted operating system.

"The invention also concerns a data medium readable by a computer and comprising the instructions of a computer program such as mentioned above.

"This data medium may be any entity or device, embedded or removable, capable of storing the program. For example, the medium may be a storage medium such as a ROM memory, CD-ROM or ROM of a micro electronic circuit, or magnetic recording means e.g. a hard disk, or a memory of flash or RAM type.

"In addition, the data medium may be a transmissible medium such as an electrical or optical signal which can be conveyed via an electrical or optical cable, via radio or via other means. The program of the invention may in particular be downloaded into an on-line storage space or onto an Internet platform.

"Alternatively, the storage medium may be an integrated circuit in which the computer program is incorporated, the circuit being adapted to execute or to be used in the execution of the method under consideration.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"Other characteristics and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the description given below with reference to the appended drawings illustrating an example of embodiment thereof that is in no way limiting. In the Figures:

"FIG. 1 schematically illustrates an electronic device according to one embodiment of the invention;

"FIG. 2 schematically illustrates a method according to one particular embodiment of the invention;

"FIG. 3 schematically illustrates a scenario of use of the method according to the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 2;

"FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating a method according to another embodiment of the invention."

For additional information on this patent application, see: Bousquet, Nicolas; Sierra, Yannick. Electronic Assembly Comprising a Disabling Module. Filed November 25, 2013 and posted June 5, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=50&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140529.PD.&OS=PD/20140529&RS=PD/20140529

Keywords for this news article include: Patents.

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Source: Computer Weekly News


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