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Security features on STM32H5 MCUs
This article contains an overview of the security features available on STM32H5 MCUs. The table below contains detailed information based on the different product lines.
|Security features embedded on:|
|Secure Boot and Firmware Update||YES||YES||YES|
|SBSFU by MCUboot||YES||YES||YES|
|ST crypto lib||YES||YES||YES|
|Crypto lib usage||YES||YES||YES|
|Silicon device life cycle||YES||YES||YES|
1 Secure Boot and Firmware Update
Boot lock and HDP features are available on STM32H5 MCUs, allowing the development of the Secure Boot system.
TrustZone® runtime isolation is possible starting from the STM32H563 line, allowing the development of the TF-M based Secure Boot to implement the PSA.
SAES and hardware cryptography, native ST-iRoT, and the subsequent option of the Secure manager are options that are only available on the STM32H573 top line.
In any case, Secure Boot is a sequence starting from a fixed starting point, configured and locked using option bytes. As the Secure Boot progresses, the basic and immutable firmware (iRoT, immutable Root of Trust) updates or validates the updatable part of the Secure Boot progression, which is called uRoT (updatable Root of Trust). This increases the HDP temporal isolation to level 2 when giving control to the next chain link.
Finally, the uRoT updates or executes an application or an operating system, either secure or nonsecure, in HDP level 3.
1.1 SBSFU legacy
STM32H5 MCUs do not support legacy SBSFU .
1.2 SBSFU by MCUboot
Adapted for parts without TrustZone® support. SBSFU by MCUboot can also be used on STM32H503 product lines. However, there are some limitations compared to larger devices.
SBSFU variant with TrustZone® support, based on the PSA TF-M model. This is the tier of Secure Boot and field upgrade intended for the STM32H563 product lines.
The Secure Boot starts in the user flash memory on a secure address range, starting from 0x0C00 0000, where it is assumed that there is an OEM-iRoT or another chosen secure software .
The crypto parts support the option to use ST-iRoT, which is an initial step in the secure boot solution with the Secure manager.
With TrustZone® enabled, the device starts the Secure Boot procedure.
In the case of STM32H57x, it evaluates the Unique Boot Entry (UBE) option byte setting, to determine whether ST-iRoT is the selected boot option.
From the ST-iRoT, the Secure Boot also continues in the user flash memory, by either using the STMicroelectronics installable services, like Secure Manager, or customized code. From the Secure Boot chain point of view, the latter is an OEM-uRoT.
Depending on the selected boot address, there are different options for Secure Boot progression.
The upper path leading to the Secure Manager is the path of certified PSA level 3 security. This is only available on the STM32H573 crypto product line.
To support the protection of the assets from unrelated processes, several means of isolation are available on STM32H5 MCUs.
TrustZone® facilitates protection in runtime, when secure and nonsecure coexist and take turns in executing code on the CPU core. Temporal isolation on the other hand protects the boot code from being reentered in any other way than by reset.
2.1 Temporal isolation
The temporal isolation feature (HDP) has significantly evolved in STM32H5 MCUs. Still called HDP, its usability is now extended. The two most significant changes are:
- The HDP user has now three levels available.
- The HDP protected area now can be defined almost anywhere in the memory, independently of the secure watermark area.
The HDP is now linked to the secure storage, which is also referred to as Option byte keys (OBK).
The HDP levels are:
- Level 1 - Level used by the Secure Boot. For example, iRoT, if ST-iRoT is used. This level is not accessible to the user.
- Level 2 - Level used by the later stages of the Secure Boot. For example, uRoT (updatable Root of Trust).
- Level 3 - Final level in which the product will end up once the Secure Boot phase is concluded.
Locking out the lower levels is under the control of the SBS, maintaining monotonic counter preventing lowering the level without proper reset. The option bytes define the start and the end of the HDPL1 reserved area in each flash memory bank, with sector granularity. Accessible part of the system flash memory contains a callable function that facilitates the transition. The system service to increase the level increases the monotonic level counter and jump to the desired address in the Level 2 area.
The threshold between HDPL2 and final HDPL3 is a register value:
- This is the number of sectors past the end of the HDPL1 lockout area that will also be rendered inaccessible until the next reboot.
- It is volatile and needs to be set every time the transition is needed.
- The value has dual protection: Once set, it can never be decremented, and it cannot be modified at all once the transition to HDPL3 is done.
2.3 Secure manager
Secure Manager is an easy-to-use proprietary implementation of the PSA API, which is specifically optimized for STM35H5 MCUs. By using the Secure Manager, the user benefits straight away from an easy-to-use certified security, without the need for an additional investment.
2.3.1 IP protection
If all the firmware in the microcontroller is trusted (single-tenant protection), and for simple IP protection, the Closed state is used as IP protection. The Closed state protects the content from the outside world.
The Trustzone® isolation between secure and nonsecure allows multitenant IP protection implementation, where secure firmware IP is protected from the nonsecure application code. This isolation extends to debugger access to the nonsecure application as well.
Secure manager development kit (SMDK) can be used to add several modules that are mutually isolated. Secure manager is built on a Secure Boot and provides high level of confidence in protecting assets. User application can rely on the Secure manager modules to encrypt data, authenticate a communication counterpart or signed data blob, exchange keys or issue digital signatures with provided certificates.
2.3.2 Secure provisioning
Secure provisioning is a prerequisite for the Secure manager to be operational on the device.
Secure manager cannot be installed on the device in the Open product state.
When developing for Secure manager, the device is in TZ-Closed product state. This means that the services of the Secure manager run isolated in the secure domain while the user can only debug the nonsecure domain, where the application code is.
The provisioning is a process in which all the prerequisites are set, including useful optional provisioning such as the Debug authentication before the Secure manager package is installed.
2.3.3 Initial attestation
Attestation is a standard part of the PSA API. Secure manager provides attestation.
The device is able to correctly sign the challenge with a token using the IAK (initial attestation key), as a proof of performed a Secure Boot using correct software and hardware.
SMAK stands for Secure manager access kit.
This is a package that can be downloaded and used by anyone who wishes to use Secure manager with STM32H573 MCUs.
SMAK allows and helps with the development of applications using the Secure manager for security services.
Stands for Secure manager development kit, a program for professional security developers.
Upon contacting STMicroelectronics and agreeing on signing an NDA, these can develop Secure manager modules, which can expand the secure domain code with new API and functionality. Each module runs isolated from the other modules, to prevent compromising the security of existing modules.
Means of performing cryptography depends on the STM32H5 product line.
3.1 ST crypto lib
ST crypto library v4 is available for the STM32H5 MCUs. ST crypto library is closed-source, but it can be added to the project easily, and it is downloadable together with many examples.
3.2 Crypto libraries
Third-party libraries such as Mbed™ exist for STM32H5 MCUs.
Mbed™ library implements PSA crypto API which makes it well suited for TF-M related projects. Mbed™ is distributed as source code.
Mbed™ port working with STM32H5 MCUs is distributed with the STM32H5 Cube intro package.
4 Silicon device life cycle
STM32H5 MCUs have deeply changed the device life cycle management.
4.1 Legacy RDP
Product state is a system that replaces the old RDP (read protection) mechanism provided by the life cycle management:
STM32L5 MCUs introduced the RDP0.5. STM32U5 MCUs introduced the much needed rollback mechanism for debug authentication.
When comparing the Product State with the legacy RDP mechanism, Open state is equivalent to RDP0 and Locked (Closed) state is equivalent to the RDP2. There is no direct equivalent of the RDP1 in the Product State.
4.2 Product State
Rather than only extending the RDP with necessary intermediate states, complete replacement makes introduction of new features easier to understand.
The basic progression now looks like this:
|Product state||Description||Transitions possible|
|Open||State intended for unrestricted development. HUK is hidden, user is free to experiment||Provisioning, Provisioned|
|Provisioning (and Provisioned)||States intended to establish security, install keys, the secure firmware and set the OB||Closed, Locked, TZ-Closed, Regression|
|TZ-Closed||State in which the secure environment is set and developers work only with the nonsecure domain||Regression, Closed, Locked|
|Closed||Final product delivery state - no debug access is possible||Regression|
|Locked||As closed, but with no chance for regression (as old RDP2)||None|
|Regression (or NS-Regression)||Process of reopening for debug||Open or TZ-Closed, depending on regression type|
Note that there is no direct equivalent to the RDP1 in the new scheme. RDP1 was not suitable for development, nor good enough for serious protection.
STMicroelectronics delivers the microcontroller in the Open state. It is possible to freely manipulate option bytes, including the TrustZone® enable, to simplify development and testing, down to HDP level 1. Only part of the development closely related to the installable secure services must be done in the TZ-Closed state, when the services are actually present.
The provisioning is used to secure the product and manage control over the security. Among other settings, the debug authentication means are established in this step, meaning that the product can be set, for example, to:
- regress back to the Open state, if the correct credentials are provided.
- regress only to TZ-Closed on different credentials.
- temporarily allow full debug with right credentials.
- temporarily allow debug on a nonsecure part with different credentials.
- create credentials that allow the delegation of the access to other users.
The product itself only has the root certificate in the Open state. All other configuration must be done through the development environment.
4.3 Debug authentication
STM32H5 devices are delivered as Open with all security deactivated. Debug authentication allows the developer to establish cryptographic means to control the product state. Without diving into the technical details, the paragraph below describes the possibilities of the Debug authentication mechanism.
Before locking the product, the developer chooses the maximum extent of future possible reopening and provisions the product with this information. Along with this setting, cryptographic authentication means are established. The developer can then perform either a product state regression or temporary debug reopening of the product, when authenticated successfully.
It is also possible to delegate the debug or regression rights using generated certificates. When generating the certificate, the delegated rights may be any subset of the original settings. For example, this way it is possible to create separate certificates for temporary debug access and for regression to Open (blank) state and provide them to different teams, according to their roles. If allowed, the teams may also delegate further, within their set limits.
The debug authentication means depends on the capabilities of the product in question. On a cryptography enabled product, it would use the secure storage and asymmetric cryptography, while on the STM32H503 the Debug authentication security is implemented as password HASH compare. The HASH is stored in OTP area, meaning that once the Debug authentication is set, it is permanent.
4.3.1 Debug reopening
Debug reopening is a temporary state in which the debug is permitted on a Closed state product, after successful debug authentication. It is possible to reopen only the nonsecure isolation domain or the whole product.
Regression allows reopening the product, by changing the Product State to Open. All secure storage contents are invalidated and cannot be reused even if the same set of keys are used in provisioning.
5 Secure manufacturing
Mass production of devices is often outsourced and sometimes the contractual manufacturer cannot be fully trusted with sensitive provisioning data or binaries. They may produce copies of the original product for alternative market, compromise the devices or simply not prevent the data from leaking outside. STMicroelectronics provides tools to prevent such situation and protect OEM IP.
Secure Firmware Install (SFI) uses the STM32 Trusted Package Creator tool and a HSM (hardware secure machine) to encrypt the install package, authenticate the genuine STM32 device for installation and limit the installation number to a planned number.
For further details, refer to UM2238 and AN5054.
SFIx extends the SFI with support of external memories connected to the STM32 device. It uses the same tools as the regular SFI.
Provisioning is the process of installing keys, certificates, and settings to the product. It is written either to an OTP memory or to the OBK storage, if available. It is also done using the HSM, especially in case of STM32H5 devices where it is, in this context, effectively part of the SFI.
6 Secure storage
Secure storage is based on a sector of nonvolatile memory with special access rules:
- It is primarily intended as key storage, despite the fact that any data can be stored there.
- One part of it is reserved for system security management. One part is open to the user.
- Access to the secure storage is under the control of the SBS, linked to temporal isolation levels.
It is available on STM32H56x lines, but the following description is only accurate for the STM32H57x crypto parts. The STM32H57x features a secure AES cryptography IP (SAES), which uses HUK (hardware unique key) to encrypt the OBK contents. The HUK is never disclosed, and never used before provisioning. OBK storage is therefore very safe. To prevent replay attacks, the SAES is also "salting" the HUK with an EPOCH counter. EPOCH counters are monotonic, nonvolatile counters, incremented on each regression.
The OBK is not available on all the STM32H503 product lines.