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Securing the Internet of Things

21st February 2014


Microsemi has launched a reference design based around its SmartFusion 2 chip to securely boot processors and help protect networks such as the Internet of Things from attack.

“Very few processors today can be booted securely and therefore are untrusted, and yet threats have never been greater, especially as the industry embeds processors into increasingly critical applications, such as driver assist in automotive, process control and automation for manufacturing, as well as our hyper-connected world in the emerging Internet-of-Things,” said Tim Morin, director of marketing at Microsemi. “Our reference design can protect these systems and applications at the most basic level, reducing user risk and limiting exposure by ensuring that all system processors are executing authenticated code.”

Without a secure boot process, code executing on any embedded system is by definition untrusted. Untrusted systems present risk to a company’s brand, can expose companies to contractual liabilities and in some cases can lead to loss of life.

Microsemi’s reference design implements a 'chain of trust' process. At each stage of the boot-process through to the top application layer, each subsequent boot phase is validated by the previously trusted code before further code execution is allowed.

Microsemi’s reference design uses its SmartFusion2 SoC FPGA, which offers a number of advanced security features including on-chip oscillators, accelerators for cryptographic services, secure key storage, a true random number generator, on-chip boot code storage in secure embedded flash memory (eNVM) and at-speed serial peripheral interface (SPI) flash memory emulation to enable a secure boot of an external processor at speed. The devices also feature stronger design security than other FPGAs and include differential power analysis (DPA) resistant anti-tamper measures using technology licensed from Cryptography Research Incorporated (CRI).  

The reference design also provides a public instance of Microsemi’s WhiteboxCRYPTO security product, which enables transport of a symmetric encryption key in a plain text environment through complex algebraic decomposition of the crypto key and strong obfuscation.

A graphical user interface (GUI) device allows users to encrypt their application code for subsequent programing into an SPI flash and decryption in the host processor for execution. In addition, a complete user’s guide assists developers with implementing secure boot capabilities in their embedded systems.

When compared to other 5G SERDES-based FPGAs under 150K logic elements (LEs), SmartFusion2 devices’ high level of integration provides the lowest total system cost versus competitive FPGAs while improving reliability, significantly reducing power and systematically protecting customers’ valuable design IPs.

Microsemi provides uncompromising security wherever data is collected, communicated, or processed, and whenever its accuracy, availability, and authenticity are essential. For more than a decade, the company’s security experts have been providing information assurance (IA) and anti-tamper (AT) solutions and services to fortify critical program information and technology.

Microsemi security products are used by US federal organizations and commercial entities in applications requiring a high level of electronic security including financial, digital rights management, gaming, industrial automation and medical.

Microsemi’s security solutions portfolio includes FPGAs, SoC products, cryptography solutions, TRRUST-Stor solid state drives (SSD), intellectual property (IP) and firmware. The company also offers a comprehensive range of security related services, as well as design, assembly, packaging and testing services all in its trusted facility.

Microsemi’s Secure Boot Reference Design for SmartFusion2 SoC FPGAs is available immediately and the company plans to offer reference designs for the secure booting of application processors from manufacturers including ARM, Intel and Freescale.

For more information, visit www.microsemi.com







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