New Industry Products

Microchip Technology Introduces 16-bit Chipmaker with Advanced Security Features for Protecting Intellectual Property

July 25, 2006 by Jeff Shepard

Microchip Technology Inc. introduced its dsPIC® digital signal controllers (DSCs) and PIC24H microcontrollers (MCUs) – 16-bit devices with advanced security features that allow multiple parties in a collaborative system design to share the memory, interrupts and peripherals of a single chip without compromising their intellectual property (IP). This memory segmentation reduces system costs for OEMs and their design partners by eliminating the need to store programs on separate chips.

CodeGuard™ security can eliminate collaboration and security concerns by enabling OEMs to divide and share three segments of on-chip memory with tiered levels of security – the Boot Segment, Secure Segment and General Segment. This segmentation allows design houses or algorithm vendors to protect proprietary software in secure memory segments while permitting a range of applications to access algorithm operation from other segments. Additionally, CodeGuard security, coupled with Microchip's low-cost encryption software libraries, enables secure field upgrades of product firmware. These secure field updates of firmware can be further improved by decrypting the incoming data stream entirely within a secure segment's resources.

Claiming to be the first chipmaker to offer this type of security in 16-bit devices, Microchip also offers such features on devices that target general-purpose, motor-control, automotive and digital power-conversion applications. (previously, this type of code security was only offered on 32-bit processors and ASICs targeting PDA and smart-card applications.) However, automotive, manufacturing-equipment and power-meter OEMs, among others, have expressed concerns about the possibility of intruders tampering with their mission-critical systems during the course of field firmware updates to a controller's Flash memory via protocols stacks like TCP/IP or onboard peripherals for CAN, USB, RS232 or I2C™ communication.

The CodeGuard security found on Microchip's 16-bit devices features segmented Flash memory with code protection options for each segment. Combining CodeGuard security with encryption software libraries enables a secure kernel that ensures tamper-resistant firmware upgrades and application deployments in the field. This feature of CodeGuard security is particularly beneficial to applications in the automotive, industrial and consumer markets, such as automobile engine electronics. Applications such as telecom (e.g. noise-cancelling headsets and hands-free phone kits), power distribution/metering and authentication (e.g. smart-card readers, ATMs and POS terminals) can also take advantage of this security.

Advanced implementation of CodeGuard security is available today, at no additional charge, onboard the following Microchip devices: all PIC24H MCUs, all dsPIC33 DSCs, dsPIC30F5011/5013, and dsPIC30F6010A/6011A/6012A/6013A/6014A/6015.