WithSecure’s USB armory enables post-quantum cryptography in space

WithSecure’s USB armory is an open-sourced, single board computer with a unique form factor and capabilities. It has been used in a variety of applications, including (but not limited to) encrypted storage solutions, hardware security modules (HSM), enhanced smart cards, electronic vaults (e.g. cryptocurrency wallets), key escrow services, and more.

MAPHEUS, or Material Physics Experiments in Zero Gravity, is a program operated by the German Aerospace Center’s (DLR) Materials Physics in Space and Aerospace Medicine institutes, and the Mobile Rocket Base (MORABA).

Their latest mission, MAPHEUS-13, was launched on May 22, 2023, to conduct experiments on 3D printing components made of metal in zero gravity, the response of molten alloys to weightlessness, healing processes in the central nervous system or brain in reduced/increased gravity, and more.

Included in the mission as a part of Experiment 007 EV2 was WithSecure’s USB armory to assess its security framework and capabilities for protecting data produced by experiments. Specifically, it aimed to assess post-quantum cryptography for secure key exchange in a trusted execution environment running on a USB armory.

“We were looking for a solution to extend our real-time systems in Experiment 007 with a secure computer system that allows us to integrate computing power for more advanced algorithms, data analysis, and standard software in a neat, lean, and secure way. The USB armory proved to be small, versatile, and powerful enough to fit our requirements. In the long run we will extend the use of TamaGo, GoTEE and Linux to enable complex data analysis and AI/ML use-cases for the scientists at DLR in-flight,” said DLR partner and Chief Security Architect at adesso SE Christian Kahlo.

The USB armory’s versatility and entrenched security features have provided a suitable base for additional security frameworks. These include TamaGo, which reduces attack surfaces by removing dependency on memory-unsafe languages, operating systems, and third-party libraries; and GoTEE, a trusted execution environment that allows the device to isolate secure applets from unsafe code, with and without operating systems.

Thanks to this combination of capabilities, the USB armory successfully exchanged encryption keys using post-quantum cryptography during the mission.

“This is the first time we put the USB armory into space. I’m pleased that our hardware and software did its job in this environment. We enabled advanced cryptography in space, and on top of this, we did it with memory safe code and a minimal software supply chain thanks to our TamaGo and GoTEE frameworks. Our team is extremely proud of this collaboration and its accomplishments,” said WithSecure Head of Hardware Security Andrea Barisani.

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