Utimaco Atalla

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TypePrivately owned
IndustryComputer software
Enterprise software
Encryption / Cryptography
Hardware security modules
Internet security
Founded1973; 50 years ago (1973)
FounderMohamed M. Atalla

Utimaco Atalla, founded as Atalla Technovation and formerly known as Atalla Corporation or HP Atalla, is a security vendor, active in the market segments of data security and cryptography.[1] Atalla provides government-grade end-to-end products in network security,[2] and hardware security modules (HSMs) used in automated teller machines (ATMs) and Internet security. The company was founded by Egyptian engineer Mohamed M. Atalla in 1972.[3] Atalla HSMs are the payment card industry's de facto standard,[4] protecting 250 million card transactions daily (more than 90 billion transactions annually) as of 2013,[5] and securing the majority of the world's ATM transactions as of 2014.[6]

Company history[edit]


The company was originally founded in 1972,[5] initially as Atalla Technovation, before it was later called Atalla Corporation.[7] The company was founded by Dr. Mohamed M. Atalla, the inventor of the MOSFET (metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor).[3] In 1972, Atalla filed U.S. Patent 3,938,091 for a remote PIN verification system, which utilized encryption techniques to assure telephone link security while entering personal ID information, which would be transmitted as encrypted data over telecommunications networks to a remote location for verification.[7]

He invented the first hardware security module (HSM),[6] dubbed the "Atalla Box", a security system which encrypted PIN and ATM messages, and protected offline devices with an un-guessable PIN-generating key.[8] He commercially released the "Atalla Box" in 1973.[8] The product was released as the Identikey. It was a card reader and customer identification system, providing a terminal with plastic card and PIN capabilities. The system was designed to let banks and thrift institutions switch to a plastic card environment from a passbook program. The Identikey system consisted of a card reader console, two customer PIN pads, intelligent controller and built-in electronic interface package.[9] The device consisted of two keypads, one for the customer and one for the teller. It allowed the customer to type in a secret code, which is transformed by the device, using a microprocessor, into another code for the teller.[10] The Identikey system connected directly into the ATM without hardware or software changes, and was designed for easy operation by the teller and customer. During a transaction, the customer's account number was read by the card reader. This process replaced manual entry and avoided possible key stroke errors. It allowed users to replace traditional customer verification methods such as signature verification and test questions with a secure PIN system.[9]

A key innovation of the Atalla Box was the key block, which is required to securely interchange symmetric keys or PINs with other actors of the banking industry. This secure interchange is performed using the Atalla Key Block (AKB) format, which lies at the root of all cryptographic block formats used within the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards.[3]

Fearful that Atalla would dominate the market, banks and credit card companies began working on an international standard. The work of Atalla led to the use of high security modules.[8] Its PIN verification process was similar to the later IBM 3624 system.[11] Atalla was an early competitor to IBM in the banking market, and was cited as an influence by IBM employees who worked on the Data Encryption Standard (DES).[7]

At the National Association of Mutual Savings Banks (NAMSB) conference in January 1976, Atalla announced an upgrade to its Identikey system, called the Interchange Identikey. It added the capabilities of processing online transactions and dealing with network security. Designed with the focus of taking bank transactions online, the Identikey system was extended to shared-facility operations. It was consistent and compatible with various switching networks, and was capable of resetting itself electronically to any one of 64,000 irreversible nonlinear algorithms as directed by card data information. The Interchange Identikey device was released in March 1976. It was one of the first products designed to deal with online transactions, along with Bunker Ramo Corporation products unveiled at the same NAMSB conference.[10] In 1979, Atalla introduced the first network security processor (NSP).[12] In recognition of his work on the PIN system of information security management, Atalla has been referred to as the "Father of the PIN"[13][14][15] and as a father of information security technology.[16]


It merged in 1987 with Tandem Computers, who were then acquired by Compaq in 1997.[17] The Atalla Box protected over 90% of all ATM networks in operation as of 1998,[18] and secured 85% of all ATM transactions worldwide as of 2006.[19] In 2001, HP acquired Compaq.[20][21] In 2015, HP was divided into two companies, and the Atalla products were assigned to the newly formed Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

On September 7, 2016, HPE CEO Meg Whitman announced that the software assets of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, including Atalla, would be spun out and then merged with Micro Focus to create an independent company of which HP Enterprise shareholders would retain majority ownership. Micro Focus CEO Kevin Loosemore called the transaction "entirely consistent with our established acquisition strategy and our focus on efficient management of mature infrastructure products" and indicated that Micro Focus intended to "bring the core earnings margin for the mature assets in the deal - about 80 percent of the total - from 21 percent today to Micro Focus's existing 46 percent level within three years."[22] The merger concluded on September 1, 2017.

On 18 May 2018, Utimaco, a German producer of hardware security modules, announced its intent to acquire the Atalla HSM and ESKM (Enterprise Secure Key Manager) business lines from Micro Focus.[23][24] The venture received United States regulatory clearance in October 2018.[25]

In February 2020, Ultimaco acquired GEOBRIDGE Corporation. GEOBRIDGE Corporation is a woman-owned technology company providing compliance services integration systems, development of key management programs, consultancy in the payments industry and architecture and implementation of cryptographic solutions. This acquisition will expand Utimaco 's key financial sector management portfolio.[26]

Product overview[edit]

Atalla is a multi-chip embedded cryptographic module, which consists of a hardware platform, a firmware secure loader, and firmware. The purpose of the module is to load Approved application programs, also referred to as personalities, securely. The firmware monitors the physical security of the cryptographic module. Verification that the module is approved can be observed.[citation needed]

The Atalla security policy addresses the hardware and the firmware secure loader. This approach creates a security platform able to load secure code. Once control passes from the loader, the module is no longer operating in FIPS mode. Note: that no personality will have access to the module's secret keys.[27] The cryptographic boundary of the ACS for the FIPS 140-2 Level 3 validation is the outer perimeter of the secure metal enclosure that encompasses all critical security components.[28]


  1. ^ Novinson, Michael (23 February 2018). "Utimaco set to acquire Atalla". CRN. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  2. ^ Albelooshi, Bushra; Damiani, Ernesto; Salah, Khaled; Martin, Thomas (December 2015). "Securing Cryptographic Keys in the IaaS Cloud Model". 2015 IEEE/ACM 8th International Conference on Utility and Cloud Computing (UCC). pp. 397–401. doi:10.1109/UCC.2015.64. ISBN 978-0-7695-5697-0. S2CID 15645480. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Rupp, Martin (16 August 2019). "The Benefits of the Atalla Key Block". Utimaco. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  4. ^ Turajski, Nathan (17 January 2018). "Stronger together – Voltage SecureData enabled with Atalla HSM protection". Micro Focus. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  5. ^ a b Langford, Susan (2013). "ATM Cash-out Attacks" (PDF). Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Hewlett-Packard. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  6. ^ a b Stiennon, Richard (17 June 2014). "Key Management a Fast Growing Space". SecurityCurrent. IT-Harvest. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  7. ^ a b c "The Economic Impacts of NIST's Data Encryption Standard (DES) Program" (PDF). National Institute of Standards and Technology. United States Department of Commerce. October 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 July 2017. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Bátiz-Lazo, Bernardo (2018). Cash and Dash: How ATMs and Computers Changed Banking. Oxford University Press. pp. 284 & 311. ISBN 9780191085574.
  9. ^ a b "ID System Designed as NCR 270 Upgrade". Computerworld. IDG Enterprise. 12 (7): 49. 13 February 1978.
  10. ^ a b "Four Products for On-Line Transactions Unveiled". Computerworld. IDG Enterprise. 10 (4): 3. 26 January 1976.
  11. ^ Konheim, Alan G. (1 April 2016). "Automated teller machines: their history and authentication protocols". Journal of Cryptographic Engineering. 6 (1): 1–29. doi:10.1007/s13389-015-0104-3. ISSN 2190-8516. S2CID 1706990.
  12. ^ Burkey, Darren (May 2018). "Data Security Overview" (PDF). Micro Focus. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  13. ^ "Martin M. (John) Atalla". Purdue University. 2003. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  14. ^ "Security guru tackles Net: Father of PIN 'unretires' to launch TriStrata". The Business Journals. American City Business Journals. 2 May 1999. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  15. ^ "Purdue Schools of Engineering honor 10 distinguished alumni". Journal & Courier. 5 May 2002. p. 33.
  16. ^ Allen, Frederick E. (4 May 2009). "Honoring The Creators Of The Computerized World". Forbes. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  17. ^ Chandrasekaran, Rajiv (24 June 1997). "Compaq to acquire Tandem Computers". The Washington Post.
  18. ^ Hamscher, Walter; MacWillson, Alastair; Turner, Paul (1998). "Electronic Business without Fear : The Tristrata Security Architecture" (PDF). Semantic Scholar. Price Waterhouse. S2CID 18375242. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2019. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  19. ^ "Portfolio Overview for Payment & GP HSMs" (PDF). Utimaco. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  20. ^ Wright, Rob (8 September 2011). "The HP-Compaq Merger: Partners Reflect 10 Years Later". CRN. Retrieved 14 December 2021.
  21. ^ Gold, Miriam (8 February 2002). "HP/Compaq - Acquisition timeline". Computerworld. Retrieved 14 December 2021.
  22. ^ Sandle, Paul; Baker, Liana B. (8 September 2016). "HP Enterprise strikes $8.8 billion deal with Micro Focus for software assets". Reuters. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  23. ^ "Utimaco beabsichtigt, Atalla von Micro Focus zu übernehmen - Utimaco HSM". Utimaco HSM (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  24. ^ "Utimaco Announces Intent to Acquire Atalla from Micro Focus - Utimaco". www.utimaco.com. Archived from the original on 15 January 2022. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  25. ^ "Utimaco Cleared to Complete Acquisition of Atalla". Mobile Payments Today. 23 October 2018.
  26. ^ "Utimaco to Expand Portfolio in Key Management by Acquiring GEOBRIDGE Corporation". businesswire. 24 February 2020. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  27. ^ "Hewlett-Packard – Atalla Security Products: Atalla Cryptographic Subsystem (ACS) Security Policy" (PDF). No. Vol. 1. National Institute of Standards and Technology. 28 October 2010.
  28. ^ Computer Security Resource Center (3 December 2002). "FIPS 140-2 Security Requirements for Cryptographic Modules". National Institute of Standards and Technology. CiteSeerX doi:10.6028/NIST.FIPS.140-2. Retrieved 13 May 2019. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

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