Faster and more secure: Microchip launches PIC32 MCU with integrated hardware security module

In October 2023, Microchip announced the release of the first PIC32 microcontrollers to feature an on-chip hardware security module (HSM), the PIC32CZ CA series. The MCU market is well supplied with MCUs that have the cryptographic, secure storage and secure key capabilities used to safeguard embedded devices. But the launch of the PIC32CZ CA90 marks an advance in the state of the art of embedded security.

There are two reasons why embedded developers will welcome the PIC32CZ CA90’s integration of an HSM module: stronger security, and faster execution of security routines.

These new members of the PIC32 family are at the high end of the product range: based on a 300MHz Arm® Cortex®-M7 CPU, and backed by up to 8Mbytes of Flash memory with error correction code (ECC) and up to 1Mbyte of SRAM with ECC, the MCUs support Gigabit Ethernet with time-sensitive networking features, and other high-speed interfaces such as USB and CAN. The MCUs’ high-performance capabilities are ideal for embedded devices in the automotive and industrial markets.

The connected applications that the PIC32CZ CA products support require high security to protect the host system as well as the equipment manufacturer’s intellectual property. And this is why the MCU’s strengthening of system security is important.

The HSM is the key element here. It is a complete security sub-system with its own Arm Cortex-M0+ CPU. This means that it can perform all security functions such as encryption or secure boot behind a hardware firewall, completely isolated from the host Cortex-M7 CPU. This is in contrast to most ‘secure’ 32-bit MCUs, in which cryptography and other security functions are executed in the same CPU in which at-risk data is processed.

The provision of security functions in a dedicated hardware module also speeds their execution: the PIC32CZ CA90’s HSM can achieve throughput faster than 1,280Mbits/s for AES-128 cryptography, and 1,250Mbits/s for SHA512. RSA 2048 hashes can be signed in 175ms, and verified in just 2.4ms.

To evaluate the strong security and blazing speed of the PIC32CZ CA90, designers can use the PIC32CZ CA90 Curiosity Ultra development board (part number EA58X56A). Featuring an Arduino Uno R3 compatible interface, an Xplained Pro extension-compatible interface and a MikroBus™ socket, this board readily supports extension boards to enable the quick composition of a prototype application.

The PIC32CZ CA90 Curiosity Ultra development board is available now to qualified applications via the FTM Board Club.