What can a hardware security chip do for you?

By: Maurice Jackson

When you embark on your next design, you should seriously consider what, in your design, is valuable—and, therefore, vulnerable to security breaches by thieves or hackers.   Make a list, check it twice, and I am certain that the Atmel CryptoAuthentication™ family of high-security hardware authentication devices can help.  The devices offer a flexible command set that allows use for many applications, including the following:

•  Anti-counterfeiting

Validate that a removable, replaceable, or consumable client is authentic. Example clients could be printer ink cartridges, electronic daughter cards, or other spare parts. It can also be used to validate a software/firmware module or memory storage element.

•  Protection for Firmware or Media

Validate code stored in Flash memory at boot to prevent unauthorized modifications (aka secure boot), encrypt downloaded media files, and uniquely encrypt code images to be usable on a single system only.

•  Session Key Exchange

Securely and easily exchange stream encryption keys for use by an encryption/decryption engine in the system microprocessor to manage such things as a confidential communications channel or an encrypted download.

•  Secure Data Storage

Store secret keys for use by crypto accelerators in standard microprocessors. It can also be used to store small quantities of data necessary for configuration, calibration, ePurse value, consumption data, or other secrets. Programmable protection up through encrypted/authenticated reads and writes.

•  User Password Checking

Validate user entered passwords without letting the expected value become known, map simple passwords to complex ones, and securely exchange password values with remote system.

•  Guaranteed Unique Serial Number

Each device has a unique 72-bit serial number.  The device can double as a storage for the unique serial number.

•  High-Quality Random Number Generator

The device includes an internal, high-quality random number generator (RNG).  As such, the device can be used as the source of an RNG.

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