Tuning protection

Chip tuning is a double-edged sword

Chip tuning allows for increased performance of the internal combustion engine, improves acceleration and increases top speed.

However, the negative consequences are often overlooked. They include the possible failure of safety inspections and loss of insurance coverage as well as additional risks to drivers, for example, through excessive stress on vehicle components. In addition, the manufacturer warranty may be void due to resulting damages of any kind.

Different attack scenarios for chip tuning

In modern vehicles, a microcontroller, the brains of the engine control unit, controls and monitors the combustion process and exhaust aftertreatment. Chip tuning is typically either based on the manipulation of input sensor data (e.g. intake pressure) or the changing of control parameters in the engine control unit. Connecting the engine control unit to the vehicle diagnostic interface through the wire harness creates different, often easily accessible, points of attack on the microcontroller's debugging or programming interfaces.

Infineon’s microcontrollers provide effective mechanisms for IP protection and secure software updates

For many years now, Infineon has implemented mechanisms in its TriCore™-based microcontrollers that prevent unauthorized access, which in turn prevents program content from being read (IP protection) or modified (tuning protection). However, it must be possible to update software in a protected environment at any time.

The Hardware Security Module (HSM) in the current AURIX™ product family provides a software environment protected by a firewall that enables the fully encapsulated execution of specific security routines.

The HSM offers a number of functions for implementingeffective tuning protection. These include:


  • Password protection for debugging and programming interfaces
  • Cyclic background monitoring of program memory integrity while driving
  • Verification (authentication) of external programming devices and diagnostic tools
  • A protected software environment for programming routines
  • Detection of external tuning through parameter plausibility and error entries in the protected HSM data memory


Depending on customer needs, unjustified warranty claims can be specifically identified and unauthorized tuning can be prevented. In addition, it enables vehicle manufacturers to specifically authorize or licensechip tuning to third parties. Another positive side effect is the IP protection of the software manufacturer by preventing unauthorized access to the control unit. Secure software updates when visiting a service center are still possible by obtaining the required passwords from the automobile manufacturer.

Car Security Glossary

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