Trusted Platform Module

Components of a Trusted Platform Module complying with the TPM version 1.2 standard

Trusted Platform Module (TPM, also known as ISO/IEC 11889) is an international standard for a secure cryptoprocessor, a dedicated microcontroller designed to secure hardware through integrated cryptographic keys.


Trusted Platform Module (TPM) was conceived by a computer industry consortium called Trusted Computing Group (TCG), and was standardized by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in 2009 as ISO/IEC 11889.[1]

TCG continued to revise the TPM specifications. The last revised edition of TPM Main Specification Version 1.2 was published on March 3, 2011. It consisted of three parts, based on their purpose.[2] For the second major version of TPM, however, TCG released TPM Library Specification 2.0, which builds upon the previously published TPM Main Specification. Its latest edition was released on September 29, 2016, with several errata with the latest one being dated on January 8, 2018.[3][4]


Trusted Platform Module provides

Computer programs can use a TPM to authenticate hardware devices, since each TPM chip has a unique and secret Endorsement Key (EK) burned in as it is produced. Pushing the security down to the hardware level provides more protection than a software-only solution.[10]


The United States Department of Defense (DoD) specifies that "new computer assets (e.g., server, desktop, laptop, thin client, tablet, smartphone, personal digital assistant, mobile phone) procured to support DoD will include a TPM version 1.2 or higher where required by DISA STIGs and where such technology is available." DoD anticipates that TPM is to be used for device identification, authentication, encryption, and device integrity verification.[11]

Platform integrity

The primary scope of TPM is to assure the integrity of a platform. In this context, "integrity" means "behave as intended", and a "platform" is any computer device regardless of its operating system. It is to ensure that the boot process starts from a trusted combination of hardware and software, and continues until the operating system has fully booted and applications are running.

The responsibility of assuring said integrity using TPM is with the firmware and the operating system. For example, Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) can use TPM to form a root of trust: The TPM contains several Platform Configuration Registers (PCRs) that allow secure storage and reporting of security relevant metrics. These metrics can be used to detect changes to previous configurations and decide how to proceed. Good examples can be found in Linux Unified Key Setup (LUKS),[12] BitLocker and PrivateCore vCage memory encryption. (See below.)

Another example of platform integrity via TPM is in the use of Microsoft Office 365 licensing and Outlook Exchange.[13]

An example of TPM use for platform integrity is the Trusted Execution Technology (TXT), which creates a chain of trust. It could remotely attest that a computer is using the specified hardware and software.[14]

Disk encryption

Full disk encryption utilities, such as dm-crypt and BitLocker, can use this technology to protect the keys used to encrypt the computer's storage devices and provide integrity authentication for a trusted boot pathway that includes firmware and boot sector.

Password protection

Operating systems often require authentication (involving a password or other means) to protect keys, data or systems. If the authentication mechanism is implemented in software only, the access is prone to dictionary attacks. Since TPM is implemented in a dedicated hardware module, a dictionary attack prevention mechanism was built in, which effectively protects against guessing or automated dictionary attacks, while still allowing the user a sufficient and reasonable number of tries. Without this level of protection, only passwords with high complexity would provide sufficient protection.

Other uses and concerns

Any application can use a TPM chip for:

Other uses exist, some of which give rise to privacy concerns. The "physical presence" feature of TPM addresses some of these concerns by requiring BIOS-level confirmation for operations such as activating, deactivating, clearing or changing ownership of TPM by someone who is physically present at the console of the machine.[17][18]

TPM implementations

Trusted Platform Module installed on a motherboard
TPM 2.0 Reference Implementation
Written inC, C++
TypeTPM implementation
LicenseBSD License

Starting in 2006, many new laptops have been sold with a built-in TPM chip. In the future, this concept could be co-located on an existing motherboard chip in computers, or any other device where the TPM facilities could be employed, such as a cellphone. On a PC, either the LPC bus or the SPI bus is used to connect to the TPM chip.

The Trusted Computing Group (TCG) has certified TPM chips manufactured by Infineon Technologies, Nuvoton, and STMicroelectronics,[19] having assigned TPM vendor IDs to Advanced Micro Devices, Atmel, Broadcom, IBM, Infineon, Intel, Lenovo, National Semiconductor, Nationz Technologies, Nuvoton, Qualcomm, Rockchip, Standard Microsystems Corporation, STMicroelectronics, Samsung, Sinosun, Texas Instruments, and Winbond.[20]

There are five different types of TPM 2.0 implementations:[21][22]

  • Discrete TPMs are dedicated chips that implement TPM functionality in their own tamper resistant semiconductor package. They are theoretically the most secure type of TPM because the routines implemented in hardware should be[vague] more resistant to bugs[clarification needed] versus routines implemented in software, and their packages are required to implement some tamper resistance.
  • Integrated TPMs are part of another chip. While they use hardware that resists software bugs, they are not required to implement tamper resistance. Intel has integrated TPMs in some of its chipsets.
  • Firmware TPMs are firmware-based (e.g. UEFI) solutions that run in a CPU's trusted execution environment. Intel, AMD and Qualcomm have implemented firmware TPMs.
  • Hypervisor TPMs are virtual TPMs provided by and rely on hypervisors, in an isolated execution environment that is hidden from the software running inside virtual machines to secure their code from the software in the virtual machines. They can provide a security level comparable to a firmware TPM.
  • Software TPMs are software emulators of TPMs that run with no more protection than a regular program gets within an operating system. They depend entirely on the environment that they run in, so they provide no more security than what can be provided by the normal execution environment, and they are vulnerable to their own software bugs and attacks that are penetrating the normal execution environment.[citation needed] They are useful for development purposes.

The official TCG reference implementation of the TPM 2.0 Specification has been developed by Microsoft. It is licensed under BSD License and the source code is available on GitHub.[23] Microsoft provides a Visual Studio solution and Linux autotools build scripts.

In 2018, Intel open-sourced its Trusted Platform Module 2.0 (TPM2) software stack with support for Linux and Microsoft Windows.[24] The source code is hosted on GitHub and licensed under BSD License.[25][26]

Infineon funded the development of an open source TPM middleware that complies with the Software Stack (TSS) Enhanced System API (ESAPI) specification of the TCG.[27] It was developed by Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology (SIT).[28]

IBM's Software TPM 2.0 is an implementation of the TCG TPM 2.0 specification. It is based on the TPM specification Parts 3 and 4 and source code donated by Microsoft. It contains additional files to complete the implementation. The source code is hosted on SourceForge and licensed under BSD License.[29]

TPM 1.2 vs TPM 2.0

While TPM 2.0 addresses many of the same use cases and has similar features, the details are different. TPM 2.0 is not backward compatible to TPM 1.2.[30][31][32]

Specification TPM 1.2 TPM 2.0
Architecture The one-size-fits-all specification consists of three parts.[2] A complete specification consists of a platform-specific specification which references a common four-part TPM 2.0 library.[33][3] Platform-specific specifications define what parts of the library are mandatory, optional, or banned for that platform; and detail other requirements for that platform.[33] Platform-specific specifications include PC Client,[34] mobile,[35] and Automotive-Thin.[36]
Algorithms SHA-1 and RSA are required.[37] AES is optional.[37] Triple DES was once an optional algorithm in earlier versions of TPM 1.2,[38] but has been banned in TPM 1.2 version 94.[39] The MGF1 hash-based mask generation function that is defined in PKCS#1 is required.[37] The PC Client Platform TPM Profile (PTP) Specification requires SHA-1 and SHA-256 for hashes; RSA, ECC using the Barreto-Naehrig 256-bit curve and the NIST P-256 curve for public-key cryptography and asymmetric digital signature generation and verification; HMAC for symmetric digital signature generation and verification; 128-bit AES for symmetric-key algorithm; and the MGF1 hash-based mask generation function that is defined in PKCS#1 are required by the TCG PC Client Platform TPM Profile (PTP) Specification.[40] Many other algorithms are also defined but are optional.[41] Note that Triple DES was readded into TPM 2.0, but with restrictions some values in any 64-bit block.[42]
Crypto Primitives A random number generator, a public-key cryptographic algorithm, a cryptographic hash function, a mask generation function, digital signature generation and verification, and Direct Anonymous Attestation are required.[37] Symmetric-key algorithms and exclusive or are optional.[37] Key generation is also required.[43] A random number generator, public-key cryptographic algorithms, cryptographic hash functions, symmetric-key algorithms, digital signature generation and verification, mask generation functions, exclusive or, and ECC-based Direct Anonymous Attestation using the Barreto-Naehrig 256-bit curve are required by the TCG PC Client Platform TPM Profile (PTP) Specification.[40] The TPM 2.0 common library specification also requires key generation and key derivation functions.[44]
Hierarchy One (storage) Three (platform, storage and endorsement)
Root Keys One (SRK RSA-2048) Multiple keys and algorithms per hierarchy
Authorization HMAC, PCR, locality, physical presence Password, HMAC, and policy (which covers HMAC, PCR, locality, and physical presence).
NVRAM Unstructured data Unstructured data, Counter, Bitmap, Extend

The TPM 2.0 policy authorization includes the 1.2 HMAC, locality, physical presence, and PCR. It adds authorization based on an asymmetric digital signature, indirection to another authorization secret, counters and time limits, NVRAM values, a particular command or command parameters, and physical presence. It permits the ANDing and ORing of these authorization primitives to construct complex authorization policies.[45]


TCG has faced resistance to the deployment of this technology in some areas, where some authors see possible uses not specifically related to Trusted Computing, which may raise privacy concerns. The concerns include the abuse of remote validation of software (where the manufacturer‍—‌and not the user who owns the computer system‍—‌decides what software is allowed to run) and possible ways to follow actions taken by the user being recorded in a database, in a manner that is completely undetectable to the user.[46]

The TrueCrypt disk encryption utility, as well as its derivative VeraCrypt, do not support TPM. The original TrueCrypt developers were of the opinion that the exclusive purpose of the TPM is "to protect against attacks that require the attacker to have administrator privileges, or physical access to the computer". The attacker who has physical or administrative access to a computer can circumvent TPM, e.g., by installing a hardware keystroke logger, by resetting TPM, or by capturing memory contents and retrieving TPM-issued keys. As such, the condemning text goes so far as to claim that TPM is entirely redundant.[47] The VeraCrypt publisher has reproduced the original allegation with no changes other than replacing "TrueCrypt" with "VeraCrypt".[48]


In 2010, Christopher Tarnovsky presented an attack against TPMs at Black Hat Briefings, where he claimed to be able to extract secrets from a single TPM. He was able to do this after 6 months of work by inserting a probe and spying on an internal bus for the Infineon SLE 66 CL PC.[49][50]

In 2015, as part of the Snowden revelations, it was revealed that in 2010 a US CIA team claimed at an internal conference to have carried out a differential power analysis attack against TPMs that was able to extract secrets.[51][52]

In 2018, a design flaw in the TPM 2.0 specification for the static root of trust for measurement (SRTM) was reported (CVE-2018-6622). It allows an adversary to reset and forge platform configuration registers which are designed to securely hold measurements of software that are used for bootstrapping a computer.[53] Fixing it requires hardware-specific firmware patches.[53] An attacker abuses power interrupts and TPM state restores to trick TPM into thinking that it is running on non-tampered components.[54]

Main Trusted Boot (tboot) distributions before November 2017 are affected by a dynamic root of trust for measurement (DRTM) attack CVE-2017-16837, which affects computers running on Intel's Trusted eXecution Technology (TXT) for the boot-up routine.[54]

In case of physical access, computers with TPM are vulnerable to cold boot attacks as long as the system is on or can be booted without a passphrase from shutdown or hibernation, which is the default setup for Windows computers with BitLocker full disk encryption.[55]

2017 weak key generation controversy

In October 2017, it was reported that a code library developed by Infineon, which had been in widespread use in its TPMs, contained a vulnerability, known as ROCA, which generated weak RSA key pairs that allowed private keys to be inferred from public keys. As a result, all systems depending upon the privacy of such weak keys are vulnerable to compromise, such as identity theft or spoofing.[56]

Cryptosystems that store encryption keys directly in the TPM without blinding could be at particular risk to these types of attacks, as passwords and other factors would be meaningless if the attacks can extract encryption secrets.[57]

Infineon has released firmware updates for its TPMs to manufacturers who have used them.[58]


Currently TPM is used by nearly all PC and notebook manufacturers.

TPM is implemented by several vendors:

  • In 2006, with the introduction of first Macintosh models with Intel processors, Apple started to ship Macs with TPM. Apple never provided an official driver, but there was a port under GPL available.[59] Apple has not shipped a computer with TPM since 2006.[60]
  • Atmel manufactures TPM devices that it claims to be compliant to the Trusted Platform Module specification version 1.2 revision 116 and offered with several interfaces (LPC, SPI, and I2C), modes (FIPS 140-2 certified and standard mode), temperature grades (commercial and industrial), and packages (TSSOP and QFN).[61][62] Atmel's TPMs support PCs and embedded devices.[61] Atmel also provides TPM development kits to support integration of its TPM devices into various embedded designs.[63]
  • Google includes TPMs in Chromebooks as part of their security model.[64]
  • Google Compute Engine offers virtualized TPMs (vTPMs) as part of Google Cloud's Shielded VMs product.[65]
  • Infineon provides both TPM chips and TPM software, which is delivered as OEM versions with new computers, as well as separately by Infineon for products with TPM technology which complies to TCG standards. For example, Infineon licensed TPM management software to Broadcom Corp. in 2004.[66]
  • Microsoft operating systems Windows Vista and later use the chip in conjunction with the included disk encryption component named BitLocker. Microsoft had announced that from January 1, 2015 all computers will have to be equipped with a TPM 2.0 module in order to pass Windows 8.1 hardware certification.[67] However, in a December 2014 review of the Windows Certification Program this was instead made an optional requirement. However, TPM 2.0 is required for connected standby systems.[68] Virtual machines running on Hyper-V can have their own virtual TPM module starting with Windows 10 1511 and Windows Server 2016.[69]
  • In 2011, Taiwanese manufacturer MSI launched its Windpad 110W tablet featuring an AMD CPU and Infineon Security Platform TPM, which ships with controlling software version 3.7. The chip is disabled by default but can be enabled with the included, pre-installed software.[70]
  • Nuvoton provides TPM devices implementing Trusted Computing Group (TCG) version 1.2 and 2.0 specifications for PC applications. Nuvoton also provides TPM devices implementing these specifications for embedded systems and IoT (Internet of Things) applications via I2C and SPI host interfaces. Nuvoton's TPM complies with Common Criteria (CC) with assurance level EAL 4 augmented, FIPS 140-2 level 1 and TCG Compliance requirements, all supported within a single device.[citation needed]
  • Oracle ships TPMs in their recent X- and T-Series Systems such as T3 or T4 series of servers.[71] Support is included in Solaris 11.[72]
  • PrivateCore vCage uses TPM chips in conjunction with Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) to validate systems on bootup.[citation needed]
  • VMware ESXi hypervisor has supported TPM since 4.x, and from 5.0 it is enabled by default.[73][74]
  • Xen hypervisor has support of virtualized TPMs. Each guest gets its own unique, emulated, software TPM.[75]
  • KVM, combined with QEMU, has support for virtualized TPMs. As of 2012, it supports passing through the physical TPM chip to a single dedicated guest. QEMU 2.11 released on December 2017 also provides emulated TPMs to guests.[76]

There are also hybrid types; for example, TPM can be integrated into an Ethernet controller, thus eliminating the need for a separate motherboard component.[77][78]

The Trusted Platform Module 2.0 (TPM 2.0) is supported by the Linux kernel since version 3.20.[79][80][81]

TPM software libraries

To utilize a TPM, the user needs a software library that communicates with the TPM and provides a friendlier API than the raw TPM communication. Currently, there are several such open-source TPM 2.0 libraries. Some of them also support TPM 1.2, but mostly TPM 1.2 chips are now deprecated and modern development is focused on TPM 2.0.

Typically, a TPM library provides API with one-to-one mappings to TPM commands. The TCG specification calls this layer the System API(SAPI). This way the user has more control over the TPM operations, however the complexity is high. Therefore, most libraries also offer rich API to invoke complex TPM operations and hide some of the complexity. The TCG specification call these two layers Enhanced System API(ESAPI) and Feature API(FAPI).

There is currently only one stack that follows the TCG specification. All the other available open-source TPM libraries use their own form of richer API.

Summary of the existing open-source TPM libraries
TPM Libraries API TPM 2.0 TPM 1.2 Attestation server or example Microsoft


Linux Bare metal
tpm2-tss[82] SAPI, ESAPI and FAPI

from the TCG specification

Yes No No, but there is a separate project* Yes Yes Maybe**
ibmtss2[83] 1:1 mapping to TPM commands Yes Partial Yes, "IBM ACS"[84] Yes Yes No
go-tpm[85] 1:1 mapping to TPM commands

+ rich API (mild layer on top)

Yes Partial Yes, "Go-attestation"[86] Yes Yes No
wolfTPM[87] 1:1 mapping to TPM commands

+ rich API (wrappers)

Yes No Yes, examples are inside the library Yes Yes Yes

(*) There is a separate project called “CHARRA” by Fraunhofer [88] that uses the tpm2-tss library for Remote Attestation. The other stacks have accompanying attestation servers or directly include examples for attestation. IBM offer their open-source Remote Attestation Server called "IBM ACS" on Sourceforge and Google have “Go-Attestation” available on GitHub, while “wolfTPM” offers time and local attestation examples directly in its open-source code, also on GitHub.

(**) There is an application note[89] about an example project for the AURIX 32-bit SoC using the tpm2-tss library.

These TPM libraries are sometimes also called TPM stacks, because they provide the interface for the developer or user to interact with the TPM. As seen from the table, the TPM stacks abstract the operating system and transport layer, so the user could migrate one application between platforms. For example, by using TPM stack API the user would interact the same way with a TPM, regardless if the physical chip is connected over SPI, I2C or LPC interface to the Host system.

Developer communities

The increasing topic of computer security and especially hardware backed security made the potential use of TPM popular among developers and users. There are currently at least two developer communities around using a TPM.


This community[90] has a forum-like platform for sharing information and asking questions. In the platform one could find articles and video tutorials from community members and guests. There is a regular weekly online call. The main focus of this community is lowering the barrier to adoption of TPM and existing TPM Software Libraries. Specific focus is put on Remote Attestation and trusted applications.


This community[91] is centered around the use of TPM with the tpm2-tss library. The community engages in developing and other tpm2 related software that can be found at their GitHub account.[92] There also is a tutorials and external section with links to conference talks and presentations.

See also


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Further reading

  1. TPM 1.2 Protection Profile (Common Criteria Protection Profile), Trusted Computing Group.
  2. PC Client Platform TPM Profile (PTP) Specification (Additional TPM 2.0 specifications as applied to TPMs for PC clients), Trusted Computing Group.
  3. PC Client Protection Profile for TPM 2.0 (Common Criteria Protection Profile for TPM 2.0 as applied to PC clients), Trusted Computing Group.
  4. Trusted Platform Module (TPM) (Work group web page and list of resources), Trusted Computing Group.
  5. "OLS: Linux and trusted computing", LWN.
  6. Trusted Platform Module (podcast), GRC, 24:30.
  7. TPM Setup (for Mac OS X), Comet way.
  8. "The Security of the Trusted Platform Module (TPM): statement on Princeton Feb 26 paper" (PDF), Bulletin (press release), Trusted Computing Group, February 2008.
  9. "Take Control of TCPA", Linux journal.
  10. TPM Reset Attack, Dartmouth.
  11. Trusted Platforms (white paper), Intel, IBM Corporation, CiteSeerX
  12. Garrett, Matthew, A short introduction to TPMs, Dream width.
  13. Martin, Andrew, Trusted Infrastructure "101" (PDF), PSU.
  14. Using the TPM: Machine Authentication and Attestation (PDF), Intro to trusted computing, Open security training.
  15. A Root of Trust for Measurement: Mitigating the Lying Endpoint Problem of TNC (PDF), CH: HSR, 2011.

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