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VIA secures mesh networking with on-chip encryption

Wireless networks running the open-source MeshAP will be able to handle encrypted traffic at unprecedented speeds
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor
A hardware-based cryptographic technology developed by VIA Technologies could allow distributed wireless networks to transmit encrypted data much faster than before.

The VIA PadLock ACE (Advanced Cryptography Engine) runs on top of VIA's C5P Nehemia core processor. It is capable of encrypting or decrypting data at a maximum rate of 12.8 Gigabits per second, and can cope with 128-bit, 196-bit and 256-bit keys.

Because it handles the algorithms used in AES (advanced encryption standard), the PadLock ACE is compliant with the US government's cryptographic standards.

VIA announced late last week that Britain's mesh-networking company LocustWorld was the first commercial software developer to include support for PadLock ACE in its code.

LocustWorld's open-source MeshAP software can dynamically configure multiple wireless access points into a wireless network, or mesh, running at 2.4GHz. This software powers the LocustWorld Mesh boxes, which are based on VIA's processors.

Previously, the performance of Mesh nodes have deteriorated when trying to handle encrypted traffic simultaneously from multiple points on the mesh network. According to Richard Lander, co-founder of LocustWorld, VIA's PadLock ACE will relieve the Mesh access points of the burden of processing encrypted data.

"Using the on-die AES encryption from the latest VIA processors we can achieve an encryption layer with hardly any overhead on the CPU", said Lander.

"Network performance using the VIA PadLock ACE is close to the speed of un-encrypted communications, achieving high-strength encryption without the associated performance impact, even on large networks with high traffic. The result is virtually transparent encryption", Lander added.

Mesh networks have proved popular with rural communities looking to provide themselves with broadband access, while Government bodies and corporations have generally been less keen to adopt them. The ability to process encrypted data quickly could help to address this.

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