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Protecting automotive ECUs

John Day

John Day

Posted Nov 25, 2011

Counterfeit automotive electronic components and manipulation of electronic control unit (ECU) coding are potentially serious problems for automakers.  Chipmaker Infineon Technologies suggests that counterfeiting results in billions of dollars in financial loss annually, as well as possible safety risks, and code manipulation presents both safety and liability issues.

To help control the problem, Infineon has begun to add hardware-based security features to its 32-bit AUDO MAX microcontrollers, which target powertrain and chassis applications.  The firm says its “Secure Hardware Extension” (SHE), including a protected secret key and encryption engines, addresses security concerns raised by the Hersteller Initiative (HIS), members of which include Audi, BMW, Daimler, Porsche and Volkswagen.

Infineon says its SHE offers advantages over software security solutions or those that either require external hardware or run via external bus systems. SHE integrates a secure keystore that cannot be read without access authorization, and it encrypts access codes with up to 128 bits.

The cryptographic individual key of an ECU has to match all the cryptographic keys within the ECU network of a vehicle, and that key is stored safely in the SHE, so even if an ECU were to be fitted in another identical vehicle, its engine performance characteristics could not be changed. A secure boot feature ensures that only the original software is loaded during the boot process.

Three AUDO MAX MCUs are currently available with SHE. Each comes with 4 MB flash memory but differs in clock frequency and package: TC1798 (300MHz, BGA-516), TC1793 (270MHz, BGA-416) and TC1791 (240MHz, BGA-292). All are available in sample quantities. Volume production has begun for the TC1793 and is set to begin for the TC1798 and TC1791 in Q1 of 2012. Infineon says its future 65nm eFlash microcontrollers will extend the SHE functionality with a Hardware Security Module (HSM).


Volkswagen, Secure Hardware Extension (SHE), AUDO MAX microcontrollers, Audi, Infineon Technologies, Porsche, Daimlre, Hersteller Initiative

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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