Why Implement Hardware Security?


Silicon-Based Security Is Superior to Software Solutions

What makes hardware security more secure? Confidential data or secrets are vulnerable to attack when stored in standard memories, disks or other software repositories. Atmel® security ICs provide a number of sophisticated design features aimed at keeping key information and core secrets safe from hackers and thieves — on all types of processor-driven systems. This hardware-based security also offers protection at partner and subcontractor sites using secure personalization capabilities.


Defend Intangible Assets

The loss of valuable intellectual property (IP) or trade secrets can have a direct negative impact on any company's bottom line. The best defense against IP theft and misuse of intangible property is to block access to the information that constitutes the asset. Atmel CryptoAuthentication™ technology keeps the IP secure even when it’s in the hands of OEM manufacturers or subcontractors. Each device is designed to permit secure personalization, so third parties can build devices containing an OEM secret without gaining access to that secret. The SHA-256 hash algorithm with a 256-bit key length prevents exhaustive attacks.


Harden the Targets

All parts of an organization’s security umbrella should be “hardened” or shielded from attack, including encryption keys, verification codes and firmware. Atmel hardware-based security can accomplish that goal in a small space, simply and cost-effectively. There is virtually no way to download secret information that has been locked inside a device. Atmel CryptoAuthentication devices implement the host security algorithm in hardware and securely store and manage the host secrets, strengthening system-level security.


Implement Security with Ease

With Atmel CryptoAuthentication ICs, you get a turnkey solution to meet your security needs. Our CryptoAuthentication devices are the perfect companion with all Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs). What’s more, with our personalization service, you don’t need to be cryptography experts or invest in expensive equipment or software to program the secrets into your chip.
To make deployment as seamless as possible, Atmel has several options available for device personalization. These include:

  • Using one of our socketed development boards along with our software tool suite for very low volumes
  • Using our standalone secure personalization kit for low volumes
  • Purchasing an Atmel-approved third-party programming tool for all volumes
  • Using certified programming services through our distribution partners for all volume levels
  • Using Atmel’s value-added secure personalization service for high volumes

Protect Revenue Streams

Authentication devices prevent cloning by competitors. Onboard security ICs can be used to identify legitimate removable components such as battery packs, medical disposables, ink cartridges and filters that aren’t equipped with their own processors. Multiple physical security features prevent unauthorized disclosure of the secret key stored within the device.


Comply with Regulations

Security has been mandated in a number of industries such as healthcare and wireless communication, with rules that organizations must adhere to when they implement information systems. Security ICs can help organizations comply with these regulations, particularly with regard to portable and externally operated devices that are particularly difficult to secure.


Safeguard a Valuable Reputation

A good reputation in the marketplace can easily be put at risk by a security breach as simple as an unauthorized software download. In financial terms, damage to a firm's reputation can result in lost revenue or destruction of shareholder value. Building iron-clad security into a product or service helps safeguard the company’s good name, protecting both the company and the customer. It can also be part of a comprehensive risk management program that can help ensure the viability of the enterprise.


Secure RFID

Where environments dictate close-proximity secure wireless communications the Atmel® CryptoRF® Transponder, Atmel CryptoRF Reader, and Atmel CryptoCompanion™ offer a full RFID secure authentication solution for embedded and non-embedded applications. CryptoRF is ideally suited to meet a variety of security applications such as product authentication, contactless payment, patient safety, anti-cloning of consumables, loyalty and patron management. CryptoRF devices are great for proximity applications where hardware security is desired or when environmental factors such as dirt, moisture, chemicals, etc., exist.


Reference Materials

Below is a selection of Atmel application notes and other documents for your reference.

Application Notes
PDF IconACES Overview (file size: 197494, 5 pages, revision A, updated: 05/2011)
This Application Note provides an overview of the Atmel Crypto Evaluation Studio (ACES) package
PDF IconApplication Brief: Analyzing Strength of Security (file size: 44KB, 4 pages, revision A, updated: 05/2011) 
PDF IconATSHA204 Authentication Modes (file size: 974KB, 11 pages, revision B, updated: 11/2012)
General application of the ATSHA204 device for Fixed Challenge Authentication, Unique Challenge Authentication, Random Challenge Authentication, and Diversified Key Authentication.
PDF IconATSHA204 Factory Default Test Data (file size: 127KB, 6 pages, revision A, updated: 12/2012)
Factory default configuration values for the Configuration and Data/OTP zones specific to ATSHA204.
PDF IconATSHA204 Product Uses (file size: 347KB, 12 pages, revision A, updated: 12/2012)
Use case examples which provide brief descriptions of the possible ATSHA204 CryptoAuthentication applications and how these applications can be implemented.
PDF IconDesigning with CryptoAuthentication Client Devices (file size: 532096, 20 pages, revision A, updated: 05/2009) 
PDF IconHigh Level Security Models (file size: 126052, 11 pages, revision A, updated: 03/2009) 
PDF IconHow To Implement Firmware Anti-cloning Protection (from Pico Instruments website) (file size: 1, updated: 10/2012) 
PDF IconImplementing Secure Boot with the Atmel ATSHA204 (file size: 90KB, 10 pages, revision B, updated: 09/2012) 
Detailed level explanation of secure boot with Atmel ATSHA204.
PDF IconSecure Boot Simplified (file size: 42 KB, 4 pages, revision A, updated: 03/2012)
High level explanation of secure boot with Atmel ATSHA204.
PDF IconSecure Session Encryption Key Exchange with ATSHA204 (file size: 90994, 5 pages, revision A, updated: 06/2011) 
PDF IconUsing the Atmel ATSHA204 for Secure Password Operations (file size: 81016, 8 pages, revision A, updated: 04/2011)
PDF IconAtmel System Peripheral and Memory Products Brochure (file size: 478KB, 8 pages, revision D, updated: 12/2012)
PDF IconATSHA204, ATAES132, and ATECC108 CryptoAuthentication Family of Hardware Security Solutions (file size: 349KB, 2 pages, revision D, updated: 12/2013)
PDF IconATSHA204 CryptoAuthentication Family of Hardware Security Solutions (file size: 99KB, 2 pages, revision C, updated: 11/2012)
PDF IconCrypto Products Portfolio (file size: 478742, 8 pages, revision C, updated: 03/2011)
An overview of all Crypto product offerings including Atmel CryptoAuthentication™, Atmel CryptoMemory®, Atmel CryptoRF® and Atmel CryptoController™.