Google, Western Digital, ETH Zürich, lowRISC, and partners have jointly announced OpenTitan, an effort to create hardware which is more transparent, trustworthy, and secure than the current state of the art — and it's based on the open RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA).
"Customers are asked to put faith in proprietary hardware RoT [Root of Trust] chips for their mission-critical systems without the ability to fully understand, inspect and therefore trust them," explains Dominic Rizzo, OpenTitan Lead at Google and director of the OpenTitan project. "By creating OpenTitan with the broader hardware and academic community, we can leverage the experience and security principles used to create Google’s own Titan chips to make hardware RoT designs more transparent, inspectable, and accessible to the rest of the industry. Security should never be built on opacity."
The project is under the stewardship of the lowRISC community-interest company (CIC), a not-for-profit which recently released a RISC-V implementation dubbed Ibex based on earlier work from ETH Zürich. It's this Ibex core that sits at the heart of the OpenTitan project, which aims to ensure that devices from server motherboards to Internet of Things (IoT) hardware are secure and trustable.
"We believe collaboratively developed open source silicon designs provide the flexible, cost effective base needed for future generations of secure hardware products," said Alex Bradbury, lowRISC's chief technical officer. "The lowRISC not-for-profit structure combined with full stack engineering capabilities in-house, enables us to manage high quality projects like OpenTitan, and we look forward to developing this partnership and new ones in the future."
The companies involved claim that OpenTitan has three key benefits: it's transparent, allowing adopters to both inspect and contribute to its design, firmware, and documentation; it's high quality, with expert engineering staff including those who had previously worked on Google's proprietary Titan security chips; and it's flexible, offering a single platform-agnostic RoT design that can be integrated into in a range of hardware platforms.
More information on the project is available on the official website.