Fobnail Token - developing communication method that meets the CHARRA requirements

About the Fobnail Token project

The Fobnail Token is a project that aims to provide a reference architecture for building offline integrity measurement servers on the USB device and clients running in Dynamically Launched Measured Environments (DLME). It allows the Fobnail owner to verify the trustworthiness of the running system before performing any sensitive operation. This project was founded by NlNet Foundation. More information about the project can be found in the Fobnail documentation. Also, make sure to read other posts related to this project by visiting fobnail tag.

Communication in CHARRA

CHARRA is a “Challenge/Response Remote Attestation” interaction model of the IETF RATS Reference Interaction Models for Remote Attestation Procedures using TPM 2.0. In this project, the attester and verifier communicate with themselves using libcoap. In order to achieve that we need to implement Ethernet over USB on the Fobnail Token. We decided to use Rust so nrf-hal project provides us with a USB driver, and the conducted research allowed us to determine that EEM will be the most appropriate protocol implementing Ethernet over USB. Additionally, we use smoltcp which is an interesting project that provides an implementation of TCP/IP stack.

The Fobnail SDK

We started our work on Fobnail SDK. This is a Docker container containing all tools essential for building and flashing Fobnail firmware. You can build the SDK in a few minutes.


Building applications for Fobnail

With Fobnail SDK ready we moved on to running the hello-world example using Rust nrf-hal. It turns out that the repository is missing an example for the nRF52840 which we use as a Fobnail prototype. We have to port the blinky-demo and the needed code can be found on Fobnail’s fork of nrf-hal project. The full process is described in the documentation.

The next step was to implement EEM protocol and integrate it with smoltcp. The code can be found here. Like in the hello-world example, here we also use dockerized Fobnail SDK which allows building Rust applications. During the development, we encountered some problems and the status of the current implementation can be found in Fobnail documentation.

The last step was to prepare a Fobnail firmware example, which for now is an application that allows to read Ethernet frames and send them back unchanged using the USB over Ethernet driver. Code is available here. Repo contains that builds firmware for the selected platform. Building is simple and it requires only a single command (once the repo is cloned).


Running Fobnail firmware

Running the Fobnail demo on the nRF52840 dongle is really straightforward if only the environment was correctly prepared. Tests results have been made publicly available. Firmware running is also handled by which automatically builds firmware (if needed), flashes it to target device and spawns RTT console (used for debugging). The example presented below was executed with the dongle attached to PC USB port.


The Fobnail firmware can also run directly on PC (see Developing firmware on PC), thanks to that it is possible to develop firmware without any additional hardware.


As part of the described phase, we were able to implement Ethernet over USB and properly run it on nRF52840 dongle. It is also worth paying attention to the provided code that allows you to use this implementation in isolation from the hardware layer - without using the USB standard. This will allow you to work on CHARRA functionality in the future without the need for hardware. Future development of this project will be presented in subsequent blog posts.

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 to our newsletter

Tomasz Żyjewski
Embedded Systems Engineer, mainly focused on the Yocto Project and update systems integration. Believes that embedded devices should always be optimized, so loves to work on reducing platform boot times or preparing minimal root filesystems.