Cover image for How to TPM - Part 2 : TPM Software Stack

How to TPM - Part 2 : TPM Software Stack

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How to TPM (2 Part Series)

1) How to TPM - Part 1: TPM Vocabulary 2) How to TPM - Part 2 : TPM Software Stack

This post is part of the How to TPM series. In case you haven't read the previous post(s) in this series, you might want to start from there.

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The last post covered the basics of TPM vocabulary. This post will delve into the TPM ecosystem. The Trusted Computing Group(TCG) has put together specifications for the various components that come together to create the TPM 2 Software Stack. There are multiple libraries that implement these specs to suit specific operating systems and architectures.

SAPI - System API

The System API is a layer of the overall TSS architecture that provides access to all the functionality of a TPM 2.0 implementation. It is designed to be used wherever low level calls to the TPM functions are made: firmware, BIOS, applications, OS,etc.

ESAPI - Extended System API

ESAPI is the layer on top of SAPI. This provides for enhanced context management and Cryptographic operations.
Even though ESAPI provides an easier way to use the TPM, using the ESAPI layer of APIs still requires an in-depth understanding of the TPM's internal workings.

FAPI - Feature API

The FAPI layer is on top of the ESAPI layer. FAPI provides a high-level interface including a policy definition language and key store. A user would want to create keys without any knowledge of the underlying system. This is possible by using the FAPI layer of APIs.

TCTI - TPM Command Transmission Interface

The TCTI is an IPC abstraction layer used to send commands to and receive responses from the TPM or the TAB/RM. This provides multiple interfaces between SAPI and the lower hardware layers depending on the type of TPM (physical TPM, tpm simulator, etc.) being used

tpm2-tss is a system utility that allows access to the TPM from the OS and other programs. This library consists of implementations for all the layers from FAPI to the TCTI. Install tpm2-tss.

TAB/RM: This is the TPM's Access Broker and Resource Manager.

The access broker manages synchronization between the processes that use TPM simultaneously. The TAB is responsible for guaranteeing that a process using the TPM is able to proceed with the desired operation without any interference from any of the other simultanously TPM-accessinfg processes.

The resource manager manages the TPM context in a fashion similar to the virtual memory manager. The TPM has a small memory capacity and is easily constrained by how many resources can be loaded simulatenously. The resource manager is responsible for swapping in and out of memory the various resources required by a process.

In Unix, hardware devices are treated as files and can be accessed using file paths. Likewise, the tpm hardware can be accessed either using /dev/tpm0 or using /dev/tpmrm0.

/dev/tpm0 is the direct path to the tpm hardware and at any given time, only a single process can access the tpm using this path. It is very common for multiple processes to require access to tpm. For this purpose, the /dev/tpmrm0 is used. This is the tpm's resource manager and using this multiple processes can use the tpm simultaneously.

The tpm2-abrmd is a system daemon that implements the TAB (TPM2 Access Broker) and resource manager specifications. The recent versions of kernel (starting from 4.12) have an in-kernal resource manager. If you are on a later version of the kernel, you would not need the tpm2-abrmd and can proceed using the in-kernal rm.
Install tpm2-abrmd.

TPM Device Driver

The TPM device driver is an OS specific driver. It is responsible for establishing connection to the TPM and for reading from and writing to the TPM.


This is not part of the TPM2 Software Stack per se, but is an end-user command line tool that can be used to generate keys, view capabilities, sign, hash, unseal, etc.
Install tpm2-tools.

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How to TPM (2 Part Series)

1) How to TPM - Part 1: TPM Vocabulary 2) How to TPM - Part 2 : TPM Software Stack


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