As the LoRa (Long Range) technology ecosystem accelerates, security remains an area for improvement in the market due to vulnerabilities that leave the network and application server keys accessible in the memory of modules and microcontrollers (MCUs) paired with a LoRaWAN stack. If keys are accessed in a LoRaWAN device, a hacker can impersonate it and authorise fraudulent transactions, which can result in a scalable attack with substantial losses in service revenue, recovery costs and brand equity.
In partnership with The Things Industries, Microchip has announced its first end-to-end security solution that adds secure, trusted and managed authentication to LoRaWAN devices at a global scale.
The solution brings hardware-based security to the LoRa ecosystem, combining the MCU- and radio-agnostic ATECC608A-MAHTN-T CryptoAuthentication device with The Things Industries’ managed join servers and Microchip’s secure provisioning service.
The joint solution significantly simplifies provisioning LoRaWAN devices and addresses the inherent logistical challenges that come with managing LoRaWAN authentication keys from inception and throughout the life of a device. Traditionally, network and application server keys are unprotected in the edge node, and unmonitored, as LoRaWAN devices pass through various supply chain steps and are installed in the field.
The Common Criteria Joint Interpretation Library (JIL) 'high'-rated ATECC608A comes pre-configured with secure key storage, keeping a device’s LoRaWAN secret keys isolated from the system so that sensitive keys are never exposed throughout the supply chain nor when the device is deployed.
Microchip’s secure manufacturing facilities safely provision keys, eliminating the risk of exposure during manufacturing. Combined with The Things Industries’ agnostic secure join server service to the LoRaWAN network and application server providers, the solution decreases the risk of device identity corruption by establishing a trusted authentication when a device connects to a network.
Similar to how a prepaid data plan works for a mobile device, each purchase of an ATECC608A-MAHTN-T device comes with one year of managed LoRaWAN join server service through The Things Industries. Once a device identifies itself to join a LoRaWAN network, the network contacts The Things Industries join server to verify that the identity comes from a trusted device and not a fraudulent one.
The temporary session keys are then sent securely to the network server and application server of choice. The Things Industries’ join server supports any LoRaWAN network, from commercially operated networks to private networks built on open-source components. After the one-year period, The Things Industries provides the option to extend the service.
“Hardware-based security is imperative for today’s connected applications,” said Nuri Dagdeviren, Vice President of Microchip’s Secure Products Group.
“Similar to how a Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card securely stores an international mobile identity number and its related key to authenticate subscribers on cell phones, the ATECC608A adds a hardware root of trust to the LoRa ecosystem to establish a trusted authentication when a device connects to the cloud.”
Microchip and The Things Industries have also partnered to make the onboarding process of LoRaWAN devices seamless and secure. LoRaWAN device identities are claimed by The Things Industries’ join server with minimal intervention, relieving developers from needing expertise in security.
Customers can not only choose any LoRaWAN network but can also migrate to any other LoRaWAN join server by rekeying the device. This means there is not a vendor lock-in and customers have full control over where and how the device keys are stored.
“The rapidly growing LoRaWAN market needs an efficient and secure system that provides additional security while reducing the time spent on provisioning devices,” said Johan Stokking, Chief Technology Officer at The Things Industries. “We are excited to collaborate with Microchip to enable this for devices that utilise our global network.”
The ATECC608A is agnostic and can be paired with any MCU and LoRa radio. Developers can deploy secure LoRaWAN devices by combining the ATECC608A with the SAM L21 MCU, supported by the Arm Mbed OS LoRaWAN stack, or the recently-announced SAM R34 System-in-Package with Microchip’s LoRaWAN stack.
For rapid prototyping, designers can use the CryptoAuthoXPRO socket board and The Things Industries provisioned parts in samples with the SAM L21 Xplained Pro (atsamd21-xpro) or SAM R34 Xplained Pro (DM320111).