Qubes OS & 3mdeb 'minisummit' 2020 summation

The second Qubes OS and 3mdeb ‘minisummit’ is ahead of us. We have gone through four evenings of topics devoted to Qubes OS. It has been another fruitful and productive event, during which we have exchanged loads of knowledge and expertise. Below you will find list of topics, we have discussed with related videos and broad report of each day.

  • 20.05

    1. Michał Żygowski: Qubes OS on modern AMD platform - recording
    2. Norbert Kamiński: Status fwupd/LVFS support for Qubes OS - recording
    3. AMA session - recording
  • 28.05

    1. Piotr Król: SRTM for Qubes OS VMs - recording
    2. Michał Żygowski: Anti Evil Maid for modern AMD UEFI-based platform - recording
    3. AMA session - recording
  • 04.06

    1. Piotr Król: DRTM for Qubes OS VMs - recording
    2. Michał Żygowski: Anti Evil Maid for Intel coreboot-based platform - recording
    3. AMA session - recording
  • 10.06

    1. Frédéric Pierret: How to build Qubes? From components to operating system overview -recording
    2. Marek Marczykowski-Górecki: Operating system testing, when it itself uses virtual machines - recording
    3. AMA session - recording

Qubes OS future: AMD SEV and fwupd/LVFS

The first day of ‘minisummit’ gathered us around Qubes OS future: AMD SEV and fwupd/LVFS, where speakers were discussing projects based on Qubes OS. The opening presentation dedicated to Qubes OS on modern AMD platform was held by Michał Żygowski, Firmware Engineer in 3mdeb, Braswell SoC, PC Engines and Protectli maintainer in coreboot who has presented Qubes on SuperMicro M11SDV-4C-LN4F superserver platform, that has been tested with Qubes OS on board. Michał has introduced and explained it’s features, Secure Memory Encryption (SME) and Secure Encrypted Visualisation (SEV) with encrypted state (SEV-ES) extension and explained why SME is better than TSME. Afterwards, we have been introduced with status of mentioned features on Open Source, debating whether it is supported, whether it can be used, what impact Qubes OS will have on the features or is it possible to run SEV-enabled guests using open-source tools. Michał described briefly also OVMF and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server support for SEV, Automatic Exits (AE) and Non-automatic Exits (NAE). After presentation, our specialists took the floor debating over host system protection, memory encryption on the BIOS level, XEN support and many more issues that can be found in the video above.

The second speaker was Norbert Kamiński. Junior Embedded Systems Engineer in 3mdeb and open-source contributor, who has introduced us status of fwupd/LVFS support for Qubes OS. Starting with overall information about Firmware Update and Linux Vendor Firmware Service, Norbert described three layers of it’s architecture (system, session, internet) and explained how exactly works secure web service used by hardware vendors to upload firmware archives. He also presented fwupdmgr CLI, client tool for manual update process, describing it’s role between LVFS database and fwupd. Inside project status, sponsored by NLnet Foundation, we’ve heard about Qubes OS support challenges and architecture solutions, architecture plan of the fwupd/LVFS support for Qubes OS based on sys-usb, Dom0 and UpdateVM, process of downloading and updating firmware and what is going to be done in the next steps of development: qubes fwupdmgr script and .cab archives validation. After the presentation many questions came around the topic. We were considering how .cab archives are signed, Qubes Dom0 update issues, .cab file validation tool, services that provide proofs of reproducibility and many more. What we hope to do in the nearest future inside fwupd/LVFS is upstream of qubes-fwupd component to Qubes OS Project repository.

Different approaches of using RTMs in Qubes OS

The second day of the ‘minisummit’ was devoted to different approaches of using RTMs in Qubes OS. Piotr Król, founder and Embedded Systems Consultant, has introduced SRTM for Qubes OSVMs, covering feasibility and security of various S-RTM implementations for Qubes OS virtual machines. Piotr has presented S-RTM, giving practical use cases and explained how it is created on real hardware, presenting ways of moving it to VMs. He described Xen stub domains and explained how to enable TPM in QEMU, considering options of boot firmware, bootloaders, operating systems and Xen version. We were broadly familiarised with libtpm-based TPM emulator swtpm, Xen vTPMs and finally with assumptions and future ideas for 3mdeb. Among Q&A questions specialists were debating over an option for hosting QEMU emulation outside of QEMU and a general idea of TPM inside VM. 3mdeb is looking for possible founding of S-RTM effort either through the foundation, commercial agreement, or community effort.

Michał Żygowski presented Anti Evil Maid for modern AMD UEFI-based platform, where he has explained what exactly Evil Maid attacks are and how can we protect ourselves from them with Qubes OS Anti-Evil-Maid. Michał presented the current status of AEM, explained what it provides and which attacks are still not prevented. Afterwards, speaker described ways of enabling AEM in Qubes OS for AMD platform and for TPM2 showing installation steps, sources and repositories. During Q&A we were considering how does it work with UEFI, what differs AMD from Intel in AEM script and more.

DRTM in Qubes OS – not only for Dom0 but also for VMs

The third day was devoted to DRTM in Qubes OS – not only for Dom0 but also for VMs. Piotr Król has introduced DRTM for Qubes OS VMs, discussing the value and usage models of D-RTM implementation in Qubes OS. He started presenting Root of Trust family discussing D-RTM and how does it differ from S-RTM proceeding with an overview of boot process for Qubes OS with Early/Late Launch scenario and Flicker session. Based on Flicker, Piotr has proposed scenarios in which D-RTM may be used for: Platform Relaunch, Virtual Machine Introspection technique and D-RTM, vTPM and D-RTM, Network booted vDLME and Visual Trust level indicator for VMs. The presentation has ended with future ideas, among others trusted system backups and migration, trusted firmware update, dynamic RPC policy or secure storage. The broad discussion covered among others the best way to re-establish trust in the platform. D-RTM is a vast and complicated topic and requires much more education and development. Our work related to OpenDRTM for AMD using TrenchBoot founded by NLnet should move the ecosystem forward, but we are still looking at how to advance Intel-based solutions. There is also quite a lot of work in Xen and Linux kernel. We believe that Qubes OS minisummit 2021 should cover practical demos of TrenchBoot as a reference open source D-RTM implementation.

The second speaker, Michał Żygowski has presented an Anti-Evil-Maid for Intel coreboot-based platform. Michał described what is needed for AEM to work on Intel processors, how Qubes OS Anti-Evil Maid works, what are installation steps, what troubleshooting steps he himself had to go through to make AEM work, what is Intel TXT status in coreboot and how to enable Intel TXT on other hardware.

Qubes OS testing and development – by Qubes core developers

On the last day of minisummit Qubes core developers took the floor. Frédéric Pierret, general packaging, CentOS and Fedora templates maintainer, explained how to build Qubes: from components to operating system overview. The speaker described what is Qubes OS composed of, in terms of developing qubes (UX, Qubes, Isolation Provider Layer), presented the choice of Fedora as Dom0 and VMs side distributions overview. In the next step, Frederic has explained how Qubes OS developers are introducing new features, fixes, what tools do they use and develop, on the example of Qubes builder v.1 and v.2.

The last speaker, Marek Marczykowski-Górecki, Project lead in QubesOS has introduced operating system testing, when it itself uses virtual machines. Marek briefly presented how to test Qubes OS, by describing python unit tests and pytest frameworks, used inside Qubes OS with Travis CI. He has also mentioned fuzzing tests, build tests, integration tests, installation tests, presented openQA tool used for running tests in VM and described missing parts of testing Qubes. During Q&A session we were considering how the community can help extending test scope and what kind of test are the most necessary for Qubes OS development.


From this standpoint, before we will thank you for your valuable presence during the event sessions, we want to point out how important is your contribution for future development of the open source projects we currently work on. Without your mental, financial and informational support we won’t be able to go as far as we want to. Thank you for all the help we have received so far: we are proud of being a member of the community that looks in one direction of secure open-source solutions.


Qubes OS & 3mdeb ‘minisummit’ has been a great event that triggered many important questions and allowed the community to take an active part in the broad discussion around covered issues. We would like to thank Marek and Frédéric for sharing your knowledge and time through all the events. Thank you for your cooperation and willingness to ask and answer. Great appreciation goes towards all the community that joined our meetings and many times convinced us that events such as ‘minisummit’ are important and necessary. We have exchanged loads of knowledge and experience and we would like to meet again, on Qubes OS and 3mdeb ‘minisummit’ 2021. Thank you all once again.

If you think we can help in improving Qubes OS support for your hardware, help you with Qubes OS certification on firmware level 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. If you are interested in similar content feel free to sign up to our sign up for our newsletter.

Kamila Banecka
Junior firmware tester and a linguist. Eager to acquire new language skills of both programming and natural sources. Huge fan of Natural Language Processing.