But skeptics are concerned about the ease at which these hardware-based security features could be used to set DRM (digital rights management) policies by vendors. Since the device makers, operating system vendors, and application providers decide what data is secure and what isn't, they can set policies on the device to play only certain types of media files, monitor the way the device is used, or even log keystrokes. The user will have no access to the TrustZone controls in ARM's product, Inglis said.
"What we're embarking on now is designing the extensions, getting the specifications right, and making sure it works with the operating systems. We're just beginning, now that these extensions are defined, to work on how the market can take advantage of them, and define best practices," she said.
TrustZone will be a standard feature across the ARM product family when TrustZone makes its debut later this year, Inglis said.
ARM designs and licenses processor cores to other semiconductor companies that manufacture chips based on that design. Some of the London company's customers include Intel, Texas Instruments Inc., and Motorola Inc., three of the largest mobile device chip makers.