CryptoCAN scheme from Canis Labs is designed to meet the following requirements for CAN communications:

  • Fit a publish-subscribe model
  • Encrypted messages must have bounded latencies
  • Fit within 8-byte CAN frames
  • Work on microcontrollers with limited resources
  • Support fast-start communications

CryptoCAN takes a standard CAN frame (the plaintext frame) and converts it into a CryptoCAN message (the ciphertext message) that is sent on CAN then converted back into the original plaintext CAN frame by each receiver.


A CAN frame is converted into two CAN frames containing the ciphertext. These are then decoded back to the plaintext frame at each receiver. The MAC is used to protect the ciphertext message from tampering.

To allow CAN devices using microcontrollers without hardware security modules (HSMs) to participate in secure communications, CryptoCAN has a layered architecture and includes a software emulated HSM.


The CryptoCAN stack with an HSM emulated in software and key storage in local non-volatile memory.

The pure software stack is included in MicroPython firmware for the CANPico, with keys stored in the Pico’s flash memory. The CANPico is a platform primarily intended for evaluation and prototyping. Depending on the threat model, the software HSM may be appropriate for deployment.

White paper: Encryption on CAN bus: Overview of CryptoCAN (PDF). Discusses the special requirements for encrypting messages on CAN and gives an overview of CryptoCAN software and how it interfaces to hardware security modules.

GVSETS 2022 conference paper Defending Controller Area Network (CAN) buses (PDF) on the different types of attacks on CAN and techniques to defend against them, including details of CryptoCAN encryption on CAN and the CAN-HG augmentation of CAN for security.

In this second episode of the popular Defending CAN video series our CTO describes the issues of using encryption to defend a CAN bus.

cryptocan sdk for micropython

Cheatsheet for the CAN SDK API for Python on CANPico with CryptoCAN (PDF).

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