Microchip Responds to New Automotive Safety Standards With Security IC

November 17, 2023 by Jake Hertz

The new security IC better supports large key sizes while maintaining backward compatibility for smaller keys.

Vehicles are becoming a hub of multiple digital systems, each of which requires stringent security measures. To address this need, new government and automotive OEM cybersecurity standards, specifically mandating larger key sizes and compliance with the Edwards Curve ed25519 algorithm, have set a new benchmark in automotive cybersecurity. This week, Microchip announced a new TrustAnchor Security IC, the TA10, as a response to these higher security requirements. 



The TA101 is Microchip's latest TrustAnchor Security IC. Image used courtesy of Microchip

In this piece, we’ll look at the new chip from Microchip and how it raises the bar on automotive security.


A Security IC Built to Protect Automotive Data

Microchip’s new security IC, the TA101 (datasheet linked), is an industrial-grade CryptoAuthentication Security IC, designed specifically for automotive and embedded security use cases. The device functions as a cryptographic companion to a microcontroller (MCU) or microprocessor (MPU), accelerating and offloading various cryptographic functions.

From a hardware perspective, the TA101 offers advanced cryptographic capabilities through its Advanced Crypto Engine (ACE) and Fast Crypto Engine (FCE), providing high-speed hardware cryptographic functions. This includes support for a range of elliptic curves for digital signature algorithms and key generation, RSA encryption/decryption, and symmetric cryptography with AES key generation and encryption/decryption. Additionally, the device supports Transport Layer Security (TLS) versions 1.2 and 1.3 for secure network communication.


A block diagram of the TA101

A block diagram of the TA101. Image used courtesy of Microchip


Notably, the TA101 device integrates support for both the Commercial National Security Algorithm (CNSA) required 1.0 suite of algorithms and the ed25519 curve in a single device. According to Microchip, this should provide designers with a high level of confidence that their systems are adhering to the highest levels of security standards. 

To support development, the TA101 is compatible with the CryptoAuth Trust Platform Development Kit as well as several TA101 socket boards. 


What Is the Edwards Curve ed25519?

The Edwards Curve ed25519 algorithm represents a paradigm shift in cryptographic security. 

This curve is part of a family of elliptic curve solutions known for their speed, security, and efficiency. For this reason, these solutions are generally employed in applications like digital signatures and key agreement protocols. Elliptic curve cryptography (ECC), in general, offers several advantages over traditional RSA cryptography. These include smaller key sizes for equivalent security, which in turn leads to faster computations and reduced power consumption. 

The ed25519, specifically, is a Twisted Edwards curve, which means that a mathematical transformation is applied to the original Edwards curve to allow for even stronger security even with relatively small keys. In general, ed25519 is designed to resist several common cryptographic attacks, making it a robust choice for high-security environments like the automotive sector.

Microchip claims that by incorporating this curve, the TA101 significantly elevates the security posture of automotive systems, providing an agile response to evolving threats in an increasingly interconnected automotive landscape.


A New Frontier of Security

While the challenges in automotive cybersecurity will only grow in complexity and scale, solutions like the TA101 will be crucial in navigating this new frontier. By embracing emerging standards like those from the Edwards Curve ed25519 algorithm and merging them in a single device with CNSA algorithms, Microchip is hoping to provide more robust and accessible automotive security to designers.