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USB armory’s post-quantum encryption put to test in space

June 2023 by Marc Jacob

WithSecure’s USB armory is the world’s smallest secure computer. It’s used in many different applications by organisations all over the world, and now, beyond.

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.

The 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.

Furthermore, the USB armory’s versatility and entrenched security features have provided a suitable base for additional security frameworks. These include TamaGo, which dramatically 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.

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