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MCUs add hardware-accelerated encryption to secure data

02 Mar 2015  | Graham Prophet

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 LPC18Sxx and LPC43Sxx MCU families

Armed with an AES-128 encryption engine; two 128bit, non-volatile OTP memories for encrypted hardware-randomised key storage to prevent cloning; a true random number generator for unique key creation; and boot ROM drivers supporting secure boot of authenticated encrypted firmware images, the LPC18Sxx and LPC43Sxx microcontrollers from NXP offer application code and data protection.

The microcontroller families both employ a hardware-accelerated encryption for secure boot and messaging. Also, both MCU families use ARM Cortex-M cores (Cortex-M3/LPC18Sxx and LPC43Sxx/Cortex-M4 & M0) to ensure bandwidth for fast bulk data encryption or decryption without slowing down communications. They also prevent unauthorised access to internal flash by employing code read protection.

In addition, both MCU families are supported by software solutions from ecosystem partners for secure firmware updates, secure Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity and secure networking stacks (SSL and TLS). These MCUs can also be seamlessly paired with an NXP A-Series secure element for a turnkey solution to add tamper detection, secure authentication with hardware-accelerated PKI (RSA and ECC keys), secure certificate storage and more.

The Secure element provides a store in which keys may be stored in and protected against all forms of physical and electrical attack. For the MCU to have a secure communication with an outside entity, it must first establish a secure link with the Secure element, establish its credential to be issued with the (securely held) keys and obtain them. This process alone is a complex multi-step routine, which NXP can provide as a packaged part of the offering.

The MCU families add support for secure boot and secure messaging for any 'connected' application, particularly hubs or gateways tasked with relaying and/or bridging large volumes of high-speed data. These functions are common in products such as smart meter communications hubs; factory, building and home automation devices; streaming audio products; and automotive aftermarket.

NXP observes that "With increased connectivity comes risk, and developers now need to understand and defend against threats to the code and data messages. The LPC18S and LPC43S microcontroller families help embedded developers protect connected applications from these threats, whether they are used as stand-alone device, with security solutions from software partners, or paired with an NXP A-Series secure element."

The LPC43Sxx and LPC18Sxx microcontroller families are supported by the LPC developers' ecosystem, which provides a collection of tools, drivers and middleware as well as popular forums in constant use by a highly engaged community of embedded developers. To enable developers to bring secure and connected products to market quickly, LPCXpresso evaluation boards are available for both families; each includes an LPC MCU and NXP A7001CM secure element as well as numerous connectivity and development/debugging interfaces. Together with the LPCXpresso IDE or third-party tool-chain support, plus free LPCOpen drivers and example code, these boards provide a complete low-cost evaluation/development platform.

An LPC43S37-based development platform, available in the second quarter of 2015, will help designers implement a range of secure connectivity solutions for IoT, Industry 4.0, consumer and other applications. The platform combines the MCU, security software from ecosystem partners and an NXP A-Series secure element and supports connectivity features including Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

In multiple sizes of LQFP and BGA packages, the MCUs cost starts at $3 in 4K quantities.

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