SparkFun Launches Qwiic-Compatible Cryptographic Co-Processor Breakout Board

Qwiic-compatible breakout for Microchip's cryptographic co-processor provides authentication, but not encryption — plus a hardware RNG.

SparkFun has launched a breakout board for Microchip's ATECC508A cryptographic co-processor, making it as easy as possible to add cryptographic security capabilities to your next project — and complete with two Qwiic ports for solderless connectivity, along with standard 0.1" pin headers for breadboard use.

Designed to accelerate cryptographic operations which would otherwise be too computationally intensive for low-power microcontrollers — including key agreement, challenge-response authentication, and message signing — the Microchip ATECC508A is a remarkably compact co-processor. SparkFun's breakout board then, makes it a little easier to handle — and integrates the chip into the company's Qwiic solderless connectivity ecosystem via two ports located one on each side of the board.

The ATECC508A includes 10Kb of EEPROM for data and certificate storage, access to which can be restricted and locked, while the chip itself comes with a guaranteed-unique 72-bit serial number. To support its use, SparkFun has published a hookup guide which includes six example projects powered by a bundled Arduino library: Base configuration, digital signature generation, signature verification, verified messaging between two boards, use of the chip's embedded hardware random number generator (HRNG), and a challenge-response authentication system.

While SparkFun's Arduino brings a host of cryptographic goodness to microcontroller projects, there is one key restriction to highlight: it cannot perform encryption or decryption, and is thus suited only for communications which require authentication but not privacy.

The SparkFun Cryptographic Co-Processor Breakout is available now on the SparkFun website, priced at $4.95 before volume discounts.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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