Microsoft unveils secure MCU platform with a Linux-based OS

Joanna Estrada
April 17, 2018

Azure Sphere Security Service: A turnkey, cloud service that guards every Azure Sphere device; brokering trust for device-to-device and device-to-cloud communication through certificate-based authentication, detecting emerging security threats across the entire Azure Sphere ecosystem through online failure reporting, and renewing security through software updates. Hunt was one of the principals working on that project.

The Sopris team said it was working silicon partner MediaTek to revise one of their controllers - the the Wi-Fi-enabled MT7687 - to create a prototype of a highly secure microcontroller.

Early findings indicated that "even the most price-sensitive devices should be redesigned to achieve the high levels of device security critical to society's safety", the researchers said.

Azure Sphere eco-system conceptual diagram (left) and list of silicon partners Azure Sphere will target industries including whitegoods, agriculture, energy, and infrastructure.

Microsoft held a security briefing at RSA in San Francisco today, where it announced Azure Sphere, a complete solution for IoT security. Microsoft officials said this silicon security includes "learnings" from Xbox regarding how to secure these microcontrollers and devices they power. This is something of a landmark, as it represents Microsoft's first ever Linux distribution (though not its first ever Unix operating system; during the 1980s, Microsoft Xenix was believed to be the most widely used AT&T Unix). MediaTek will have the first such device, the MT3620, shipping later this year. Microsoft calls it a "crossover MCU" that has the versatility and processing power of ARM's Cortex A-series designs, with the small size and low overheads more typical of the Cortex M-series. Its engineers added security features the company developed to the Linux "kernel", the core elements of the operating system. Sphere MCUs incorporate an application processor, a real-time processor, flash storage, and memory, along with Microsoft's security module (named "Pluton") and network connectivity. The global market for microcontroller chips that can connect to the web-roughly one-eighth of the overall microcontroller-chip business-hit $2.2 billion past year, said Tom Hackenberg, a principal analyst with the research firm, IHS Markit Ltd.

Azure Sphere is now in private preview but the company Sphere devices to be on shelves by the end of 2018 with dev kits arriving in the middle of the calendar year.

Azure Sphere is in private preview as of today, Microsoft official said and dev kits will be available by mid-year.

The company took the wraps off Microsoft Automated Threat Detection and Remediation.

And Microsoft is making an interface for its Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph available to customers and developers, officials said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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