What is a Secure Element?

What is a Secure Element?

A Secure Element (SE) is a microprocessor chip which can store sensitive data and run secure apps such as payment. It acts as a vault, protecting what’s inside the SE (applications and data) from malware attacks that are typical in the host (i.e. the device operating system).

Secure Elements handle all sorts of applications that are vital to our modern digital lives:

Authentication

Instead of user name and password, access to an online service may be protected by a strong authentication mechanism, based on credentials stored and processed in the secure element. So to log into a VPN or your email, a Secure Element could be involved in the background to ensure you are who you say you are.

Digital Signature

Applications may use the SE to digitally sign a document or any data with a key stored in this secure element. This key helps the secure element unlock encrypted data so it can be read. Again this is used to prove you are you. So your email program could use connect to the Secure Element to digitally “sign” emails you send, or a government web application could access it when you are using their digital services.

Mobile Payments

Here, the Secure Element securely stores card/cardholder data and manages the reading of encrypted data. During a payment transaction it acts like a contactless payment card using industry standard technology to help authorize a transaction. The Secure Element could either be embedded in the phone or embedded in your SIM card.

Lifecycle management

It’s crucial that SE-embedded devices are secure throughout their lifecycle. That’s why Secure Elements need to have an end-to-end security strategy. It’s no use developing a robust security solution for a device which becomes obsolete after a period of use. This is why Secured Elements can be updated continuously to counter new threats.

We hope this gives you some idea about the Secure Element. For more information, visit the Gemalto website.

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