Microchip Offers Advanced Security Features for Protecting IP

Microchip Technology Inc., a leading provider of microcontroller and analog semiconductors, announced that its dsPIC(R) digital signal controllers (DSCs) and PIC24H microcontrollers (MCUs) are the world’s first 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.


In embedded applications, OEMs, design houses and software vendors face some critical issues in trying to protect their IP while collaborating on system designs to achieve end-product customization, such as:

  • The use of multiple chips for separately protecting individual intellectual properties, which increases system costs for OEMs and Value-Added Resellers (VARs).
  • Software algorithm vendors and design houses frequently risk losing IP to unqualified partners.
  • Insufficient on-chip support for secure firmware distribution and Flash memory updates.

CodeGuard(TM) security can eliminate these 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.

“The advanced security features available on many of Microchip’s 16-bit products open new avenues to protect our IP, securely update our firmware and add new features to our lines of engineering and production device programmers,” said Brandon White, software engineering manager for BP Microsystems. “We selected the dsPIC DSC, and use Microchip’s security libraries for our latest designs. These advanced security features add considerable dimension to the capability of the dsPIC devices.”

“With the world becoming increasingly security conscious, adding a layered security capability to our 16-bit products is a natural evolution for high-end embedded designs,” said Sumit Mitra, vice president of Microchip’s Digital Signal Controller Division. “Whether the goal is to implement secure communication, protect code updates, or allow multiple parties to securely share the resources of one controller, CodeGuard security provides a solution.”

In addition to being the first chipmaker to offer this type of security in 16-bit devices, Microchip is also the only vendor to offer 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(TM) 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
  • dsPIC30F6010A/6011A/6012A/6013A/6014A/6015

For additional information, contact any Microchip sales representative or authorized worldwide distributor, or visit Microchip’s Web site.

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About Microchip Technology
Microchip Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MCHP) is a leading provider of microcontroller and analog semiconductors, providing low-risk product development, lower total system cost and faster time to market for thousands of diverse customer applications worldwide. Headquartered in Chandler, Arizona, Microchip offers outstanding technical support along with dependable delivery and quality.

The Microchip name and logo, PIC, and dsPIC are registered trademarks of Microchip Technology Inc. in the USA and other countries. CodeGuard is a trademark of Microchip Technology Inc. I2C is a trademark of Philips Corporation.