SoC and CPU System-Wide Approach to Security

Arm TrustZone technology is used on billions of applications’ processors to protect high-value code and data. It provides system-wide hardware isolation for trusted software by creating an isolated secure world that ensures confidentiality and system integrity, protecting almost any asset from attack.


At the heart of the TrustZone approach is the concept of secure and non-secure worlds that are hardware separated, with non-secure software blocked from accessing secure resources directly. Within the processor, software either resides in the secure world or the non-secure world; a switch between these two worlds is accomplished via software referred to as the secure monitor.


This concept of secure (trusted) and non-secure (non-trusted) worlds extends beyond the processor to encompass memory, software, bus transactions, interrupts and peripherals within an SoC.

TrustZone Technology for Cortex-A Processors

TrustZone technology within Cortex-A based application processors is commonly used to run trusted boot and a trusted OS to create a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE). Typical use cases include the protection of authentication mechanisms, cryptography, key material and Digital rights management (DRM). Applications that run in the secure world are called Trusted Apps.

The partitioning of the two worlds is achieved by hardware logic present in the AMBA bus fabric, peripherals and processors. Each physical processor core has two virtual cores: one considered secure and the other non-secure and a robust mechanism is provided to context switch between them (Secure Monitor exception). The entry to the secure monitor can be triggered by software executing a dedicated Secure Monitor Call (SMC) instruction or by a number of exception mechanisms. The monitor code typically saves the state of the current world and restores the state of the world it’s being switched to.

In order to implement a secure world in the SoC, trusted software (Trusted OS) needs to be developed to make use of the protected assets. This code typically implements trusted boot, the secure world switch monitor, a small trusted OS and trusted apps. Multiple levels of secure world privileges are provided for isolation between trusted boot, trusted OS and trusted apps. The combination of TrustZone based hardware isolation, trusted boot and a trusted OS make up a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE). The TEE offers the security properties of confidentiality and integrity to multiple Trusted Apps. Many TEE providers follow GlobalPlatform's API standard to enable their TEE to deliver a common security capability across platforms and markets. A protection profile has been written by GlobalPlatform for TEEs and a security evaluation scheme developed that can be used by partners who want to gain security certification from an independent test laboratory.

Talk with an Expert

Interested in learning more about the best approach to security? Talk with an Arm expert. 


Learn More

TrustZone Resources

Everything you need to know to make the right decision for your project. Includes technical documentation, industry insights, and where to go for expert advice. 





Development of TEE and Secure Monitor Code

Arm recommends investigating commercial TEE solutions from Trusted OS suppliers that are members of GlobalPlatform.

Read More