Automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers use the tool kit to design ICs that will perform encryption and other safety functions. These security chips will work alongside any microcontroller that the manufacturer is already using.

By Brian
Santo, contributing writer

Microchip Technology
announced a line of ICs that will secure the communications systems in
connected vehicles. The idea is to create chips that will pair with the
communications system processors that automobile manufacturers are already
using and provide the security functionality that those processors lack. Because
different automotive companies use different processors (and must also conform
to different safety requirements from one geographical market to the next), creating
a standard part makes no sense, so Microchip is offering a development kit that
vehicle manufacturers can use to design security ICs that suit their specific

If it’s connected,
people will try to hack it, and eventually, someone will succeed. Many already have.
Meanwhile, automotive manufacturers are rushing headlong to add connected
systems to their vehicles. Cars and trucks already sport connected infotainment
systems, navigation systems, and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).
More and more varied connectivity is coming, and there are few extant solutions
for securing those systems against hacking attempts.

there aren’t a lot of ways to do that. The most obvious one is to create a minimal
number of secure nodes through which vehicle-based connected systems would

One approach
available to an automotive manufacturer would be to integrate security
functionality, requiring a complete redesign of the electronic control unit (ECU). That’s an expensive and
time-consuming proposition. Another approach would be to create a security node
that would be an add-on. That’s the approach that Microchip is pursuing.

To that end, Microchip
has just made available its CryptoAutomotive In-Vehicle
Network (IVN) TrustAnchor/Border Security Device (TA/BSD)
development kit. The company
said that it is the only security-specific automotive tool in the industry.

The automotive customer uses Microchip’s development kit
to emulate a secure node to complement the microcontroller (MCU) that they are already
using. The tool allows manufacturers to configure the node to conform to
various specifications and industry standards. Microchip will take the design
and implement it as a companion chip, fully programmed and complete with

According to the company, the tool demonstrates secure
key storage, ECU authentication, hardware-based crypto accelerators, and other
cryptographic elements. When used with a host microcontroller, it enables
designers to implement functions such as secure boot and controller area network
(CAN) message authentication, including conversion of CAN 2.0 messages to CAN
Flexible Data rate (CAN-FD), with appended message authentication codes (MACs)
when appropriate.

Microchip said that its approach can be adopted with only
a modest amount of disruption to the design and manufacturing process.

Nicolas Schieli, Microchip senior manager of strategic
and product marketing and application engineering, told Electronic Products in
an email exchange, “OEMs around the globe are focused on adding secure boot and
CAN message authentication to multiple nodes within the vehicle, typically
focused first on ECUs that have a safety rating. Ideally, they would like to
make these ECUs resistant to someone remotely changing their firmware without
changing anything in their design.”

“However, most existing ECUs are based off of microcontrollers
that do not have any cryptographic capability and would not be able to run a
trustable firmware validation process in an acceptable amount of time after
power-on,” continued Schieli. “Therefore, adding such protection would
typically lead to a disruptive change (e.g., changing the kind of
microcontroller in their design and consequently rewriting the majority of the
firmware). Our proposed approach is much less invasive as it relies on adding a
cryptographic companion to the unchanged microcontroller along with limited
scope firmware modifications resulting in reduced customer design cost, risk
associated with secure firmware development, and reduced time to market.”

“Similarly, CAN message authentication requires support
for cryptographic key management including key generation and secure storage of
private keys, key agreement, and crypto acceleration for CAN message
authentication code calculation, all of which are supported by our crypto
companion device,” he added.

Automotive manufacturers are, of course, working on
models of their vehicles years in advance. Retrofitting can be a daunting
proposition. “The ECU board would have to be modified and the host
microcontroller firmware modified to add the necessary security checks,” said
Schieli. “The scope of changes being small, it is conceivable to ‘upgrade’
existing ECU designs.”

ADAS systems will
get more sophisticated and infotainment services are likely to expand. Soon
enough, vehicles will be able to communicate
with each other, and on-board systems will end up linking to the cloud.

Asked if it is likely that all connected systems in each
vehicle will be able to run through these companion chips, Schieli said, “It is
not likely that all connected systems in the car will use this proposed
architecture. There will naturally be a mix of solutions (fully upgraded
microcontrollers with on-chip cryptographic capabilities and lower-end/lower-cost
microcontrollers assisted by crypto companion chips). CAN MAC interoperability
of multiple implementations is easily achieved by standardized payload frame
format, MAC type, and key agreement scheme, which is defined by each OEM. 
Our companion solutions are highly configurable to support variances in OEM

He added that “some emerging vehicle-to-edge and
vehicle-to-vehicle communication standards require more specialized crypto
functions, and the proposed devices would not address all of these future requirements.”

Microchip said
that the tool can be used with any ECU, architecture, configuration, or bus.
The tool provides an online graphical user interface (GUI) program with
pre-configured options to simplify and facilitate implementation.

CryptoAutomotive Security ICs TA/BSD development kit (DM320112) is available
today for $250. Schieli said that companion chips are likely to cost about $1
each in volume. The kit can be
purchased via microchipDIRECT.