Open Source DRTM with TrenchBoot for AMD processors. Introduction.


Our company’s activity is to provide secure firmware and embedded systems to our customers. 3mdeb strategy is to use, contribute and spread open source solutions as much as possible. Factor, motivating to further work and showing the legitimacy of the adopted philosophy, is a great community response. Big kudos to Marek Marczykowski-Górecki (QubesOS) and Thierry Laurion (Insurgo) who encouraged us to apply for NLnet founds.

We are glad to inform, that we have received a grant from NLnet Foundation for Open Source DRTM implementation with TrenchBoot for AMD processors project. Under the subsidy, 3mdeb Embedded Systems Consulting wants to contribute these solutions to the public good, not as proprietary products, but as free and open source technologies that any person or application can use without restrictions and modify to their own needs and the needs of others.

This article is an introduction, which should bring you closer to the overall project’s concept and describe goals, which we want to achieve. Also, this blog post starts a series of articles describing and verifying our progress at work. Thanks to that, you can observe development process and always be up-to-date about the project.

Our goal

Our goal is twofold:

  • Implement DRTM with TrenchBoot for AMD processors.
  • Create a test environment with test suites for the community.

Above issues will be described later. Both, as already mentioned, will be fully open-source and available for everybody. Solution which we provide will be intended for AMD processors because it doesn’t include any closed software components. To do something similar on Intel processors, components called ACM (Authenticated Code Module) are required. More precisely, first is ACM SINIT which can be downloaded from Intel website, but is not redistributable. Second is ACM BIOS which can be obtained only as OEM under CNDA with Intel. Hence, it denies open-source idea. Also, ACMs are different for every CPU and must be individually requested from Intel. Moreover, being delivered in a binary form, there is no way to audit its code. In summary, there are many more problems with Intel than with AMD.

Now, let me briefly discuss each goal, so you can better understand the project. Of course, we won’t focus on details and all requirements now. Those will be systematically updated and presented to community.

DRTM with TrenchBoot

TrenchBoot is a framework that allows individuals and projects to build security engines to perform launch integrity actions for their systems. In other words, it provides tools to create the desirable solution. We will use a technology which measures and verifies running environment. To obtain that, TrenchBoot utilizes Dynamic Root of Trust for Measurements (DRTM). It is very complex topic and understanding it could take too much time. What you need to know (or take our word for it) is that those measurements are done for given piece of code (given piece of system) and are stored in Trusted Platform Module (TPM) special registers. It gives the possibility to automatically verify them against corruption or malicious modifications, and eventually proceed or stop further booting.

Also, the user has possibility to check if the measurements are valid. It can be done from OS level using dedicated tools. So, as you can see, TrenchBoot is critical piece of bootloader and operating system, if you want to make it secure. Also, its implementation is fully open-source, so everyone can inspect it and contribute.

Test environment

All requirements of project are automatically or manually validate during development. For this purpose, we need to create entire testing infrastructure with suitable hardware and software components. Moreover, all tests will be published for users, so they can verify development stage on their own platforms.

Final results, most likely at the end of each month, will be presented in form of blog articles. Everything should be clearly pointed out and explained. All used tools, all carried out procedures, all prepared configurations - everything user can inspect, revise, build, reproduce and finally use. The goal is to have a user-friendly and trust-worthy environment, so community can be sure about the quality of the solution we provide.


Once again, we would like to thank NLnet Foundation for their support. We believe that our project will benefit the open-source community and will be a big step in development of firmware security. Also we would like to thank everyone who significantly develops TrenchBoot project - committers and reviewers. Special thanks to Daniel Kiper, Andrew Cooper, Daniel P. Smith, Ross Philipson, Eric Snowberg and others.

As I mentioned in introduction section, above article is just the beginning of the entire series about DRTM implementation with TrenchBoot. So stay tuned and wait for other articles!

If you think we can help in improving the security of your firmware or you looking for someone who can boost your product by leveraging advanced features of used hardware platform, feel free to book a call with us or drop us email to contact<at>3mdeb<dot>com. If you are interested in similar content feel free to sign up for our newsletter

Piotr Kleinschmidt
Junior Firmware Engineer interested mostly in the embedded world and automatics. Likes when things work his way, but if there is an issue to debug and analysis - he faces it.