Secure Element

What Is a Secure Element?

A secure element (SE) is a hardware chip designed to run specific applications, control access, and store confidential data.

Depending on its intended use, it is commonly used to handle sensitive information like payment data, personal identification numbers (PINs), passwords, and more.

In the realm of cryptocurrencies, secure elements are predominantly utilized to store and protect private keys in hardware wallets securely.

For instance, in the identity industry, secure elements interact with certificates and biometric data.

Enhancing Device Security

Mobile phones and cold wallets are among the devices that incorporate secure element technology.

The primary feature of a secure element is its access restriction, which ensures unparalleled security.

The chip achieves this by allowing only pre-installed programs to run and limiting read and/or write privileges to trusted devices and applications, such as point-of-sale terminals and virtual storage.

Secure elements are available in various forms, including Universal Integrated Circuit Cards (UICCs) and microSD hardware cards.

Additionally, there are embedded options where the secure element is integrated into a device’s motherboard. This category includes embedded UICCs or embedded secure elements.

Beyond Hardware

In addition to physical chips, cloud-based secure elements reduce the need for a dedicated hardware chip on the host device.

Cloud-based secure elements offer a seamless user experience while maintaining the security provided by microprocessors.

Secure elements can detect tampering and hacking attempts when implemented at the hardware level.

They also provide secure memory for storing critical private data like encryption keys and generate key combinations for asymmetric encryption.

Secure elements play a crucial role in various areas, including authentication, digital signatures, contactless or NFC payments, cryptocurrency wallets, storage of biometric data, and more.