Samsung will sell the Galaxy S20’s new security chip to other OEMs
The Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra were announced earlier this month at Galaxy Unpacked 2020. As we expected, the trio of smartphones offers flagship specifications including the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, up to 16GB RAM of LPDDR5 RAM, and up to 512GB of UFS 3.0 storage, 120Hz OLED displays, massive batteries, and more. But apart from what’s on the specification sheet on the product pages, these 3 phones have an extra piece of hardware that’s entirely new to the Galaxy series. It’s a dedicated Secure Element (SE), which is a type of module used for securely storing data, like your lock screen or biometric credentials, or for performing secure data operations.
The SE found inside the Samsung Galaxy S20 family of devices integrates Samsung’s S3K250AF security chip and software optimized for the chip. Samsung says its SE solution is Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level (CC EAL) 5+ certified, which means that it has been semi-formally designed and tested to secure your private data. Storing sensitive information on an isolated data storage outside of the phone’s Universal Flash Storage (UFS) radically reduces the attack surface. According to Samsung, the Secure Element “combines a microcontroller, advanced hardware-level protection, and an optimized secure OS.” The module itself is just a few millimeters in size, so it doesn’t take up much space within the body of the device.
The S3K250AF-based SE is currently only found in the Samsung Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, and Galaxy S20 Ultra. However, Samsung already started mass production of the module and will offer it to other manufacturers. Google’s Pixel devices have the Titan M security module and Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 865 has an on-die secure element called the Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit, but it’s nice to see Samsung offer its secure hardware solution to other smartphone makers.