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XTEA - The Encryption Key

XTEA encryption algorithm has been added to the bootloader to prevent unauthorized copying of user mode applications.

For successful firmware update user mode application should be encrypted with exactly the same XTEA key that was specified in the bootloader. Bootloader code is programmed into Flash memory at the production stage and is protected from reading by PIC microcontroller hardware. The end user is unable to find out the XTEA key and to decrypt application HEX file. You can send encrypted versions of user application to clients, and don’t worry if they can be used in other devices.

To change the XTEA key you have to modify constant value XTEA_KEY. Key length is 16 bytes. This constant is defined in xtea.asm file as shown below:

;------------------------------------------------------
XTEA_KEYS_SECTION  CODE_PACK  0x001C  ; Place ROM constants after vectors
XTEA_KEY  db  "abcdefghijklmnop"  ; 16 byte Key

The key can be set as a string or as a bytes sequence, e.g.: 
;------------------------------------------------------
XTEA_KEYS_SECTION  CODE_PACK  0x001C  ; Place ROM constants after vectors
XTEA_KEY  db  0x61, 0x62, 0x63, 0x64, 0x65, 0x66, 0x67, 0x68
0x69, 0x6A, 0x6B, 0x6C, 0x6D, 0x6E, 0x6F, 0x70  ; 16 byte Key

 

Besides the key it is possible to change encryption algorithm iterations number. The iterations number defines protection level. 64 iterations set as default.

If you change iterations number, you have also to change DELTA_ITER value. DELTA_ITER should be equal to DELTA * XTEA_ITERATIONS.

For example:

XTEA_ITERATIONS  equ  0x40   ; Number of iterations on x1,x2
DELTA_ITER  db  0x40,0x6e,0xde,0x8d  ; Delta*XTEA_ITERATIONS

In case of iterations number change in Bootloader code, one has to make identical changes in encoder application. This program is used to encrypt user application.