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Microchip L10/L11 Bolster Security

July 31, 2018

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Once the simplest of all processors, microcontrollers are now sprouting security features that even some big processors lack. In a way, it makes sense. Built into all manner of smart devices, MCUs are more vulnerable to physical tampering as well as remote attacks. They typically operate in embedded systems outside data centers protected by IT managers. Microchip is the latest vendor to meet these challenges by strengthening the security of its products.

The new 32-bit SAM L10 and SAM L11 families are the first shipping products to use the Arm Cortex-M23 CPU. They have similar internal memories, integrated peripherals, and I/O interfaces. They employ several defenses to foil attackers, yet they still boast low power consumption, low prices, and small packages. Both families have secure memory, unique chip identifiers, true-random-number generators (TRNGs), the ability to detect tampering and erase secure data, and side-channel-attack resistance on their data flash memory and secure SRAM. The L11 family has additional defenses, including secure boot, cryptography acceleration, a second memory-protection unit to support Arm’s TrustZone, data scrambling for some internal memories, and more tamper resistance.

Both families target line- or battery-powered embedded systems that need 32-bit performance and stronger security than most MCUs provide. Although they’re candidates for IoT devices, they lack integrated radios, so they require an external baseband chip. They integrate a capacitive-touchscreen controller to enable a graphical user interface, but because they lack an LCD controller, they need another external chip to complete a typical system design.

All models are available now except those in wafer-level chip-scale packages (WLCSPs), which are scheduled for production by the end of the year. List prices for 1,000-unit quantities range from $1.20 to $1.88.

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