IoT Roadshow, Denver – Astek Corporation: Sub $1 cryptographic ICs for world-class hardware security

Recently, Charlie Bebout, Program Manager for IoT Security Products at Astek Corporation blogged on “Why cryptography is essential to IoT security,” as well as the paradigm shifts that have made “Robust IoT security cost less than you think.” After reviewing these, I was ready to discuss perhaps the most talked about topic in the Internet of Things and embedded spaces these days when I visited the company’s headquarters in Colorado Springs: cybersecurity.

An important consideration often overlooked is that “Security” (note the capital “S”) really means more than just preventing hackers from tampering with electronic subsystems. It also means, in many cases, the ability to ensure the safe and proper functioning of a system through the use of authentication. And to get the best of both worlds in which security ensures that systems are operating correctly and are protected from cyberattacks, solutions are required that combine cryptographic hardware ICs as the root of a trusted, verified software architecture.

However, these lessons are still beyond the scope of many companies, who struggle with hitting value add and time to market targets alone. It has been written quite frequently that security is often still an afterthought in IoT due to added cost or lacking appreciation for the potential consequences, but the stark reality that organizations may just not have the expertise to implement security effectively is a concept that is less talked about.

At Astek (which is shorthand for ASIC Technology), Charlie explained how the company has developed a line of products and services that allow security to be designed into their client’s systems in parallel with their existing lifecycle. IoT Secure Products, as the company calls them, offer system developers an avenue for integrating security into their designs by simply allocating board space for a cryptographic IC, and then moving on. Astek then leverages its expertise, as well as Atmel ICs such as the ATECC508A that integrates the Elliptic Curve Diffie–Hellman (ECDH) cryptographic protocol, to develop a security architecture suited to the specific system or application. Although I’m still a little fuzzy on exactly how Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) works, I do know that by combining hardware hooks with secure software, Astek provides its customers with security modules in a couple of weeks that can be simply slapped onto a PCB. The level of security these provide is somewhat unprecedented, as they make brute force cyber attacks uneconomical. To find out just how uneconomical, listen to my interview with Charlie on the IoT Design podcast below.

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