Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Low cost crypto chip to secure the Internet of Things

By Nick Flaherty

Microchip has turned to ARM for a hardware cryptography-enabled microcontroller which addresses the increasing need for security measures, such as secure boot, driven by the continual growth of Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

The CEC1702 is a full-featured ARM Cortex-M4-based microcontroller with a complete hardware cryptography-enabled solution in a single package. Microchip has been focussed on the competing MIPS core and has its own highly successful 8 and 16bit PIC families, but acquired ARM chip expertise when it bought Atmel.

The CEC1702 offers easy-to-use encryption, authentication, private and public key capabilities and allows customer programming flexibility to minimise customer risk and can be used as a standalone controller or a security sub-system.

The chip also provides significant performance improvements when compared to firmware-based solutions. The device’s hardware cryptographic cipher suite reduces compute time by orders of magnitude over software solutions by providing, for example, a 20-50x performance improvement for PKE acceleration as well as 100x improvement for encryption/decryption. This robust hardware-based feature set results in applications that can run security measures quickly, effectively and with significantly lower cost and power consumption.

The device provides:
  • Pre-boot authentication of system firmware: Providing an immutable identity and a root of trust to ensure that the firmware is untouched and has not been corrupted
  • Firmware update authentication: Verifying that the firmware update has not been corrupted and is from a trusted source
  • Authentication of system-critical commands: Attesting that any system-critical command is from a known source with authorisation to make the given change, preventing potentially devastating actions
  • Protection of secrets with encryption: Safeguarding code and data to prevent theft or malicious activities
Microchip simplifies the addition of authentication and encryption to connected designs by offering a full development suite including hardware and software tools as well as peripheral libraries and crypto Application Programme Interfaces (APIs) to accelerate design cycles.

The CEC1702Q-B1- SX is in production volume.

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