Security is an aspect of smartphones that some folks highly value, and for good reason – between KRACK and many other exploits, these people understandably want to know that they are taken care of. That is why it is interesting to learn that Google‘s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are the first smartphones to introduce a tamper-resistant hardware security module, which helps give the phones enterprise-grade security for the masses.
Since Android 7.0 Nougat, the act of getting by your lock screen has been verified in a secure environment. This is to limit how many times others can brute-force guess their way into your phone when locked, though that can vary on how strong the secure environment is.
This is where the tamper-resistant hardware comes in, since it seems like it replaces that secure environment with dedicated hardware. More specifically, the tamper-resistant hardware takes the form of a discrete chip that is separate from the system on a chip (SoC) and includes its own flash, RAM, processing unit, and other resources.
On the software front, because passcode verification now takes place in the security module, others cannot get your disk encryption key without compromising the security module itself. Combined with the security module performing very few functions and the inability for others, Google included, to weaken your password verification without knowing your passcode first, it sounds as if it would be very difficult for would-be attackers to take a software-only approach.
Even on the hardware, Google took extra measures to make the security module tamper-resistant, with the module being resistant to any physical penetration and fault injection techniques.
In other words, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, according to Google, are not only secure when it comes to software, but when it comes to hardware as well.
As previously mentioned, the two phones are the first to feature such a security module. Google hopes that such hardware will make its way to other smartphones, and we have a feeling that the likes of Samsung and BlackBerry, which place a strong emphasis on security, to include tamper-resistant hardware.