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Plug-and-play crypto IC eases host-side security

Posted: 28 Feb 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:crypto chip? host-side security? embedded systems?

Atmel Corp. has announced its CryptoCompanion chip providing plug-and-play host-side cryptographic security for embedded systems that are prone to counterfeiting, firmware theft and the violation of licensing agreements.

This plug-and-play convenience means that designers do not have to design or test the cryptographic algorithms. Systems likely to fall victim to counterfeiting schemes include printers and printer cartridges, appliances with smart batteries, STBs, video game consoles, video game cartridges, PDAs, GPS and any system with proprietary algorithms or secrets.

Until now, using very complex microprocessors, costing as much as $5 each, was a common implementation to achieve true security for confidential host algorithms and keys. Their complexity including the requirement of special firmware or OS, extensive cryptographic experience on the part of the engineer and their high cost has hindered their adoption.

Less cost, complexity
The CryptoCompanion chip, when used with Atmel's CryptoMemory and CryptoRF devices, promises a highly secure, hardware-based total solution for less than half the cost of complex microprocessors. The AT88SC016 CryptoCompanion chip is a completely engineered, single-chip host solution that implements host algorithms and securely stores and manages the host secrets required for secure communications. It integrates hardware cryptographic engines, a cryptographic quality hardware random number generator, and securely manages up to 16 host keys. The CryptoCompanion executes all host-side operations including mutual authentication, data encryption, firmware integrity verification, and generation of Message Authentication Codes (MAC) for secure communication. Using the CryptoCompanion chip, system developers do not need any knowledge of how to implement cryptographic algorithms in order to develop complete secure applications using CryptoMemory or CryptoRF.

This chip can also be used to create and manage up to 16 different memory sectors on Crypto devices, each of which can have different levels of read/write access with individual encryption and authentication keys and passwords. CryptoMemory and CryptoRF have encryption keys and algorithms that are completely inaccessible and, therefore, cannot be stolen or copied.

64bit crypto engine
CryptoMemory devices are said to be the world's only EEPROMs with a 64bit embedded hardware cryptographic engine, four sets of non-readable 64bit authentication keys and four sets of non-readable 64bit session encryption keys. CryptoMemory's 64bit crypto engine promises a strength-of-function that is much greater than the commonly used 48bit key length and even better than the 56bit key in the widely used DES algorithm. It features dual authentication capability, up to 256Kbits of usable memory, each with up to 16 individually configurable sectors. It supports a 2-Wire and an IS0 7816-3 in T=0 mode communications interfaces. Atmel's 13.56MHz CryptoRF devices are secure RFID devices that embed the same cryptographic capability and features as CryptoMemory in hardware, and comes with up to 64 Kbits of usable memory.

The AT88SC016 CryptoCompanion chip is available in standard 8-pin SOIC packages and supports a 2-wire interface. It is priced at 50 cents in volumes of 25,000 units. CryptoMemory and CryptoRF devices are in volume production in a variety of configurations and memory densities, and are priced from 30 cents and 75 cents, respectively, in quantities of 25,000 units.

The AT91SAM7L128 and the AT91SAM7L64 are available in a 128-pin LQFP package and a 144-pin 10mm x10mm 0.8mm ball pitch BGA package. Pricing is below $4 in volumes of 10,000 units.

Atmel is one of the exhibitors in the upcoming IIC-China 2008.

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