For the highest degree of security in its market, Apple HomeKit relies on advanced cryptographic algorithms for home automation. The algorithms chosen by Apple are best known for their use on high-performance servers. On the low-cost, resource-constrained microcontrollers that are more typical for home automation, implementation of these algorithms is a major challenge. The OberonCrypto library is the best-in-class implementation of the cryptographic functions needed for HomeKit – and for many other kinds of IoT devices. Thanks to its excellent software, Oberon microsystems has been featured as one of the key partners of Apple in the HomeKit ecosystem, along with accessory and semiconductor manufacturers:
OberonCrypto has been developed over many years, and is continuously being further improved, by our seasoned Swiss engineering team. Our goal is to make your IoT products secure, even on low-cost hardware.
For uncompromising security, the execution times of the relevant OberonCrypto operations do not depend on the secret data being processed. This mitigates the risk of common side-channel attacks such as timing attacks. This is even true for microcontrollers with data caches, e.g., products based on a Cortex-M7 core, and for the NIST curve, which is highly difficult to implement in this way.
To achieve execution times independent of the processed data – while at the same time achieving state-of-the-art performance and sometimes even beating hardware accelerators – we have invented a novel algorithmic approach to multiplication in a prime field including modular reduction. We have created formal correctness proofs and had them reviewed by independent experts (Prof. W. Meier & Prof. C. Nicola), who found our proofs “in all parts mathematically and formally correct” (proof and review documents are available to licensees).
An extensive test suite is being used for validating OberonCrypto, with standard test vectors, additional test vectors for border cases, negative tests and random tests.
OberonCrypto is partially implemented in portable C code. Optimized assembly language variants of the security- and time-critical cryptographic operations are available for several cores: ARM Cortex-M0/M0+/M23, ARM Cortex-M3, ARM Cortex-M4/M4F/M7/M33 and MIPS32 microAptiv UP. For Linux hardware, a fully portable C implementation can be provided. For some of the mentioned platforms, we also provide optimized implementations of NIST P-256 (aka prime256v1 and secp256r1).
OberonCrypto is used for example in Nordic Semiconductor’s HomeKit SDK for their Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M4F BLE chips – see also this demo video. Thanks to its quality implementation and extreme optimizations, OberonCrypto is the choice for such scenarios.
We have developed, analyzed and optimized the cryptographic code of OberonCrypto since 2013. We have leveraged advanced mathematical transformations, and have carefully written critical parts in assembly language for popular microcontroller cores. The result is typically more than three times as fast as a good implementation in C. OberonHAP thus makes advanced protocols such as HomeKit feasible even on low-power, low-cost 32-bit microcontrollers:
|Instruction set architecture||ARMv6-M||ARMv7-M||ARMv7E-M with FPv4-SP extension||MIPS32 with DSP enhancements|
|Clock frequency||16 MHz||48 MHz||64 MHz||200 MHz|
|Set up accessory – first phase with static setup code (with dynamic setup code: 3 times as long)||3.9 s||1.1 s||0.4 s||0.1 s|
|Set up accessory – second phase with static or dynamic setup code||15.0 s||4.3 s||1.4 s||0.4 s|
|Open session||940 ms||260 ms||60 ms||20 ms|
The above HomeKit-related numbers only include the time for cryptographic processing. The communication protocol, accessory logic, and operating system at the other end will add to the experienced round-trip times. Note that accessory setup usually occurs only once in the lifetime of a HomeKit accessory and happens in two phases (before the setup code is entered on the iOS device, and after the setup code has been entered).
RAM is often the most critical resource of a microcontroller. A complete HomeKit proof-of-concept with a BLE chip, implementing the light bulb profile, is feasible in less than 14 KB of RAM and 72 KB of flash. The chip vendor’s transport protocol stack (BLE in this case) and its internal buffers are not included in these numbers.
The following algorithms are supported in OberonCrypto, not all of which are needed in HomeKit but have been triggered by customers who use our library for non-HomeKit use cases:
- NIST P-256 (aka prime256v1 and secp256r1)
- SHA-1, SHA-256, SHA-512
- AES (CTR, GCM, AEX)
- RSA PKCS1 V1.5, encrypt/decrypt, 1024bit/2048bit, with or without CRT keys
- RSA PKCS1 V1.5 SHA256, sign/verify, 1024bit/2048bit, with or without CRT keys (no RSA key generation)
- SRTP AES-CTR HMAC-SHA1, 128-256bit
Supported Processor Cores and Instruction Sets
The following algorithms are supported in OberonCrypto, not all of which are needed in HomeKit itself:
- MIPS microAptiv UP without DSP
- MIPS microAptiv UP with DSP
- New combination of known algorithms for multiplication in a prime field including modular reduction
Reducing the number of expensive instructions. For example, bringing down the number of multiplications for SRP from 64 to 8 millions.
- New mathematical approach for NIST P-256 curves
Enhanced co-Z implementation of the NIST p-256 curves that is correct and executes in constant time even in all edge cases
- New bitslice implementation for AES
A new field-theoretical approach for the S-box calculation allows an efficient and table-free implementation of AES without the overhead and complications of handling multiple blocks in parallel
For more information, please contact Cuno Pfister at firstname.lastname@example.org. Oberon microsystems, Inc. is a Swiss software company located in Zurich. We have helped our customers develop unique, state-of-the-art connected products for more than 25 years: from huge Internet-connected hydro power plants to tiny Internet-connected hearing aids.
To receive news about OberonCrypto, please register on our OberonHAP mailing list.
HomeKit is a trademark of Apple Inc. Cortex is a trademark of ARM Limited. microAptiv is a trademark of Imagination Technologies. Bluetooth Low Energy is a trademark of the Bluetooth SIG and also known as BLE.