Microcontroller Attack Technology

Microcontroller Attack does experience a series of development from its early stage.

Industrial microcontroller’s hardware security method develop accompany with the embedded system simultaneously. System formed thirty years ago is constituted by separate parts before attacker know the way to attack microcontroller such as CPU, ROM, RAM, I/O, series interface and other communication and control interface.

In the early stage, there is no protection measure to prevent the microcontroller attack except law and economy. Such as ROM was made by mask-rom technology with relative low cost and can be attacked and copied effortlessly by EPROM which will be 3 to 10 times more expensive than ROM. Or customized mask ROM which will need longer time length and huge investment to prevent the microcontroller attack.

There is another application which has also been wide applied is ASIC in the electronic game machine. These ASIC use I/O part to substitute dozens of logic parts which can not only bring down the cost of production but also prevent the competitor’s attack microcontroller and copy the firmware and force them to choose other more expensive and difficult solution to attack the microcontroller. Actually the ASIC is not safe, at least not as safe as people thought, use oscillograph to analyze the signal or exhaust the all the possible combination of pinouts will understand the ASIC function within hours and proceed the microcontroller attack operation.

From the later part of 1970’s, microcontroller provides a better protection base upon the CPU controller board. They can not only provide the internal storage and universal I/O interface, but some protection measure against attack to prevent the unauthorized access or attack to the internal storage of microcontroller’s flash content.

Unfortunately the microcontroller in the early stage can provide the non-volatile storage capability so the important data must be saved outside the microcontroller itself which give the attacker greater chance to take advantage of it. In recent days the USB dongle has been applied on this device for the microcontroller protection against the attack.


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