Thursday, February 29, 2024

Secure, Versatile Microcontrollers For Embedded Systems

By Nidhi Agarwal

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The MCU family offers security for cloud-connected devices, preventing unauthorized firmware access and ensuring secure system management in various applications.

MCU

As more items connect to the cloud, including cell phones, vehicles, thermostats, and home appliances, there is a need for security at the chip level to protect firmware and data. Microchip Technology has launched the PIC18-Q24 Family of Microcontrollers (MCUs).

The MCUs include the Programming and Debugging Interface Disable (PDID) to address the risk of device reprogramming in embedded systems. This feature, when enabled, secures the programming/debugging interface, preventing unauthorized access to firmware.

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Since secure systems often need to connect with various sensors, memory chips, and processors, the MCUs are equipped with Multi-Voltage I/O (MVIO). This feature removes the necessity for external level shifters, enabling the MCUs to interface with digital inputs or outputs at different voltages. MVIO not only simplifies board design and reduces Bill of Material (BOM) cost but also makes the MCUs suitable for system management tasks like monitoring and telemetry for larger processors, areas often targeted by hackers. The MCU family can also be equipped with an immutable bootloader, offering a secure method for firmware upgrades.

The C Compiler Optimized RISC Architecture operates with a DC – 64 MHz clock input and a minimum instruction cycle of 62.5 ns. The architecture also features four Direct Memory Access (DMA) Controllers. These controllers enable data transfers to SFR/GPR spaces from the Program Flash Memory, Data EEPROM, or SFR/GPR spaces, with user-programmable source and destination sizes and data transfers that can be triggered by hardware or software. Additionally, it has Vectored Interrupt Capability, with selectable priority, fixed interrupt latency of three instruction cycles, a programmable vector table base address, and compatibility with previous interrupt capabilities.

“System security is only as strong as its weakest link. Any programmable component can be vulnerable, and it is essential to implement enhanced protection features to prevent potential hacks,” said Greg Robinson, corporate vice president of Microchip’s 8-bit MCU business unit. “The PIC18-Q24 family of MCUs from Microchip are designed to help customers combat threats at the system’s foundation with advanced security in the forefront.”

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