Protected Storage Service Integration Guide


TF-M Protected Storage (PS) service implements PSA Protected Storage APIs.

The service is usually backed by hardware isolation of the flash access domain and, in the current version, relies on hardware to isolate the flash area from non-secure access. In absence of hardware isolation, the secrecy and integrity of data is still maintained.

The PS service implements an AES-GCM based AEAD encryption policy, as a reference, to protect data integrity and authenticity.

The PS reuses the non-hierarchical filesystem provided by the TF-M Internal Trusted Storage service to store encrypted, authenticated objects.

The design addresses the following high level requirements as well:

  • Confidentiality - Resistance to unauthorised accesses through hardware/software attacks.

  • Access Authentication - Mechanism to establish requester’s identity (a non-secure entity, secure entity, or a remote server).

  • Integrity - Resistant to tampering by either the normal users of a product, package, or system or others with physical access to it. If the content of the protected storage is changed maliciously, the service is able to detect it.

  • Reliability - Resistant to power failure scenarios and incomplete write cycles.

  • Configurability - High level configurability to scale up/down memory footprint to cater for a variety of devices with varying security requirements.

  • Performance - Optimized to be used for resource constrained devices with very small silicon footprint, the PPA (power, performance, area) should be optimal.

Current PS Service Limitations

  • Asset size limitation - An asset is stored in a contiguous space in a block/sector. Hence, the maximum asset size can be up-to the size of the data block/sector. Detailed information about the maximum asset size can be found in the section Maximum asset size below.

  • Fragmentation - The current design does not support fragmentation, as an asset is stored in a contiguous space in a block. Each block can potentially store multiple assets. A delete operation implicitly moves all the assets towards the top of the block to avoid fragmentation within block. However, this may also result in unutilized space at the end of each block.

  • Non-hierarchical storage model - The current design uses a non-hierarchical storage model, as a filesystem, where all the assets are managed by a linearly indexed list of metadata. This model locates the metadata in blocks which are always stored in the same flash location. That increases the number of writes in a specific flash location as every change in the storage area requires a metadata update.

  • PSA internal trusted storage API - In the current design, the service does not use the PSA Internal Trusted Storage API to write the rollback protection values stored in the internal storage.

  • Protection against physical storage medium failure - Complete handling of inherent failures of storage mediums (e.g. bad blocks in a NAND based device) is not supported by the current design.

  • Key diversification - In a more robust design, each asset would be encrypted through a different key.

  • Lifecycle management - Currently, it does not support any subscription based keys and certificates required in a secure lifecycle management. Hence, an asset’s validity time-stamp can not be invalidated based on the system time.

  • Provisioning vs user/device data - In the current design, all assets are treated in the same manner. In an alternative design, it may be required to create separate partitions for provisioning content and user/device generated content. This is to allow safe update of provisioning data during firmware updates without the need to wipe out the user/device generated data.

Code Structure

Protected storage service code is located in secure_fw/partitions/protected_storage/ and is divided as follows:

  • Core files

  • Cryptographic interfaces

  • Non-volatile (NV) counters interfaces

The PSA PS interfaces for PS service are located in interface/include/psa

PSA Protected Storage Interfaces

The PS service exposes the following mandatory PSA PS interfaces, version 1.0:

psa_status_t psa_ps_set(psa_storage_uid_t uid, size_t data_length, const void *p_data, psa_storage_create_flags_t create_flags);
psa_status_t psa_ps_get(psa_storage_uid_t uid, size_t data_offset, size_t data_size, void *p_data, size_t *p_data_length);
psa_status_t psa_ps_get_info(psa_storage_uid_t uid, struct psa_storage_info_t *p_info);
psa_status_t psa_ps_remove(psa_storage_uid_t uid);
uint32_t psa_ps_get_support(void);

For the moment, it does not support the extended version of those APIs.

These PSA PS interfaces and PS TF-M types are defined and documented in interface/include/psa/protected_storage.h, interface/include/psa/storage_common.h and interface/include/tfm_ps_defs.h

Core Files

  • tfm_ps_req_mngr.c - Contains the PS request manager implementation which handles all requests which arrive to the service. This layer extracts the arguments from the input and output vectors, and it calls the protected storage layer with the provided parameters.

  • tfm_protected_storage.c - Contains the TF-M protected storage API implementations which are the entry points to the PS service.

  • ps_object_system.c - Contains the object system implementation to manage all objects in PS area.

  • ps_object_table.c - Contains the object system table implementation which complements the object system to manage all object in the PS area. The object table has an entry for each object stored in the object system and keeps track of its version and owner.

  • ps_encrypted_object.c - Contains an implementation to manipulate encrypted objects in the PS object system.

  • ps_utils.c - Contains common and basic functionalities used across the PS service code.

  • ps_filesystem_interface.c - Contains the interface to directly use ITS implementation of services.

Flash Filesystem and Flash Interfaces

The non-hierarchical filesystem and flash interfaces reside under Internal Trusted Storage service directory. The way PS service uses them depends on the config option TFM_PARTITION_INTERNAL_TRUSTED_STORAGE.

When TF-M Internal trusted storage service is active (i.e. TFM_PARTITION_INTERNAL_TRUSTED_STORAGE = ON), all file system and storage interfaces are built as part of ITS service library. Thus, the PS service stores encrypted, authenticated objects by making service calls to the ITS service.

When TF-M Internal trusted storage service is disabled (i.e. TFM_PARTITION_INTERNAL_TRUSTED_STORAGE = OFF), all file system and storage interfaces are built as part of PS service library. Thus, the PS service stores encrypted, authenticated objects by making standard function calls to the file system within its own partition code.

The ITS filesystem and flash interfaces and their implementation can be found in secure_fw/partitions/internal_trusted_storage/flash_fs and secure_fw/partitions/internal_trusted_storage/flash respectively. More information about the filesystem and flash interfaces can be found in the ITS integration guide.

The ITS service implementation in secure_fw/partitions/internal_trusted_storage/tfm_internal_trusted_storage.c, constructs a filesystem configuration for Protected Storage based on target-specific definitions from the Protected Storage HAL. Please see the Protected Storage Service HAL section for details of these.

Cryptographic Interface

  • crypto/ps_crypto_interface.h - Abstracts the cryptographic operations for the protected storage service.

  • crypto/ps_crypto_interface.c - Implements the PS service cryptographic operations with calls to the TF-M Crypto service.

Non-volatile (NV) Counters Interface

The current PS service provides rollback protection based on NV counters. PS defines and implements the following NV counters functionalities:

  • nv_counters/ps_nv_counters.h - Abstracts PS non-volatile counters operations. This API detaches the use of NV counters from the TF-M NV counters implementation, provided by the platform, and provides a mechanism to compile in a different API implementation for test purposes. A PS test suite may provide its own custom implementation to be able to test different PS service use cases.

  • nv_counters/ps_nv_counters.c - Implements the PS NV counters interfaces based on TF-M NV counters implementation provided by the platform.

PS Service Integration Guide

This section describes mandatory (i.e. must implement) or optional (i.e. may implement) interfaces which the system integrator have to take in to account in order to integrate the protected storage service in a new platform.

Maximum Asset Size

An asset is stored in a contiguous space in a block/sector. The maximum size of an asset can be up-to the size of the data block/sector minus the object header size (PS_OBJECT_HEADER_SIZE) which is defined in ps_object_defs.h. The PS_OBJECT_HEADER_SIZE changes based on the PS_ENCRYPTION flag status.

Protected Storage Service HAL

The PS service requires the platform to implement the PS HAL, defined in platform/include/tfm_hal_ps.h.

The following C definitions in the HAL are mandatory, and must be defined by the platform in a header named flash_layout.h:

  • TFM_HAL_PS_FLASH_DRIVER - Defines the identifier of the CMSIS Flash ARM_DRIVER_FLASH object to use for PS. It must have been allocated by the platform and will be declared extern in the HAL header.

  • TFM_HAL_PS_PROGRAM_UNIT - Defines the size of the PS flash device’s physical program unit (the smallest unit of data that can be individually programmed to flash). It must be equal to TFM_HAL_PS_FLASH_DRIVER.GetInfo()->program_unit, but made available at compile time so that filesystem structures can be statically sized. Valid values are powers of two between 1 and the flash sector size, inclusive.

The following C definitions in the HAL may optionally be defined by the platform in the flash_layout.h header:

  • TFM_HAL_PS_FLASH_AREA_ADDR - Defines the base address of the dedicated flash area for PS.

  • TFM_HAL_PS_FLASH_AREA_SIZE - Defines the size of the dedicated flash area for PS in bytes.

  • TFM_HAL_PS_SECTORS_PER_BLOCK - Defines the number of contiguous physical flash erase sectors that form a logical erase block in the filesystem. The typical value is 1, but it may be increased so that the maximum required asset size will fit in one logical block.

If any of the above definitions are not provided by the platform, then the tfm_hal_ps_fs_info() HAL API must be implemented instead. This function is documented in tfm_hal_ps.h.

The sectors reserved to be used for Protected Storage must be contiguous sectors starting at TFM_HAL_PS_FLASH_AREA_ADDR.

The design requires either 2 blocks, or any number of blocks greater than or equal to 4. Total number of blocks can not be 0, 1 or 3. This is a design choice limitation to provide power failure safe update operations.

Protected Storage Service Optional Platform Definitions

The following optional platform definitions may be defined in flash_layout.h:

  • PS_RAM_FS_SIZE - Defines the size of the RAM FS buffer when using the RAM FS emulated flash implementation. The buffer must be at least as large as the area earmarked for the filesystem by the HAL.

  • PS_FLASH_NAND_BUF_SIZE - Defines the size of the write buffer when using the NAND flash implementation. The buffer must be at least as large as a logical filesystem block.

More information about the flash_layout.h content, not ITS related, is available in Details for the platform/ext folder along with other platform information.

TF-M NV Counter Interface

To have a platform independent way to access the NV counters, TF-M defines a platform NV counter interface. For API specification, please check: platform/include/tfm_plat_nv_counters.h

The system integrators may implement this interface based on the target capabilities and set the PS_ROLLBACK_PROTECTION flag to compile in the rollback protection code.


If this flag is enabled, the lifecycle of the PS service depends on the shorter write endurance of the assets storage device and the NV counters storage device.

Secret Platform Unique Key

The encryption policy relies on a secret hardware unique key (HUK) per device. It is system integrator’s responsibility to provide an implementation which must be a non-mutable target implementation. For API specification, please check: platform/include/tfm_plat_crypto_keys.h

A stub implementation is provided in platform/ext/common/template/crypto_keys.c

Non-Secure Identity Manager

TF-M core tracks the current client IDs running in the secure or non-secure processing environment. It provides a dedicated API to retrieve the client ID which performs the service request.

Non-secure Client Extension Integration Guide provides further details on how client identification works.

PS service uses that TF-M core API to retrieve the client ID and associate it as the owner of an asset. Only the owner can read, write or delete that asset based on the creation flags.

The integration guide provides further details of non-secure implementation requirements for TF-M.

Cryptographic Interface

The reference encryption policy is built on AES-GCM, and it may be replaced by a vendor specific implementation.

The PS service abstracts all the cryptographic requirements and specifies the required cryptographic interface in secure_fw/partitions/protected_storage/crypto/ps_crypto_interface.h

The PS service cryptographic operations are implemented in secure_fw/partitions/protected_storage/crypto/ps_crypto_interface.c, using calls to the TF-M Crypto service.

PS Service Build Definitions

The PS service uses a set of C definitions to compile in/out certain features, as well as to configure certain service parameters. When using the TF-M build system, these definitions are controlled by build flags of the same name. The config/config_base.cmake file sets the default values of those flags, but they can be overwritten based on platform capabilities by setting them in platform/ext/target/<TARGET_NAME>/config.cmake. The list of PS service build definitions is:

  • PS_ENCRYPTION- this flag allows to enable/disable encryption option to encrypt the protected storage data.

  • PS_CRYPTO_AEAD_ALG - this flag indicates the AEAD algorithm to use for authenticated encryption in Protected Storage.


    For GCM/CCM it is essential that IV doesn’t get repeated. If this flag is set to PSA_ALG_GCM or PSA_ALG_CCM, PS_ROLLBACK_PROTECTION must be enabled to protect against IV rollback.

  • PS_CREATE_FLASH_LAYOUT- this flag indicates that it is required to create a PS flash layout. If this flag is set, PS service will generate an empty and valid PS flash layout to store assets. It will erase all data located in the assigned PS memory area before generating the PS layout. This flag is required to be set if the PS memory area is located in a non-persistent memory. This flag can be set if the PS memory area is located in a persistent memory without a valid PS flash layout in it. That is the case when it is the first time in the device life that the PS service is executed.

  • PS_VALIDATE_METADATA_FROM_FLASH- this flag allows to enable/disable the validation mechanism to check the metadata store in flash every time the flash data is read from flash. This validation is required if the flash is not hardware protected against malicious writes. In case the flash is protected against malicious writes (i.e embedded flash, etc), this validation can be disabled in order to reduce the validation overhead.

  • PS_ROLLBACK_PROTECTION- this flag allows to enable/disable rollback protection in protected storage service. This flag takes effect only if the target has non-volatile counters and PS_ENCRYPTION flag is on.

  • PS_RAM_FS- setting this flag to ON enables the use of RAM instead of the persistent storage device to store the FS in the Protected Storage service. This flag is OFF by default. The PS regression tests write/erase storage multiple time, so enabling this flag can increase the life of flash memory when testing. If this flag is set to ON, PS_RAM_FS_SIZE must also be provided. This specifies the size of the block of RAM to be used to simulate the flash.


    If this flag is disabled when running the regression tests, then it is recommended that the persistent storage area is erased before running the tests to ensure that all tests can run to completion. The type of persistent storage area is platform specific (eFlash, MRAM, etc.) and it is described in corresponding flash_layout.h

  • PS_MAX_ASSET_SIZE - Defines the maximum asset size to be stored in the PS area. This size is used to define the temporary buffers used by PS to read/write the asset content from/to flash. The memory used by the temporary buffers is allocated statically as PS does not use dynamic memory allocation.

  • PS_NUM_ASSETS - Defines the maximum number of assets to be stored in the PS area. This number is used to dimension statically the object table size in RAM (fast access) and flash (persistent storage). The memory used by the object table is allocated statically as PS does not use dynamic memory allocation.

  • PS_TEST_NV_COUNTERS- this flag enables the virtual implementation of the PS NV counters interface in test/secure_fw/suites/ps/secure/nv_counters of the tf-m-tests repo, which emulates NV counters in RAM, and disables the hardware implementation of NV counters provided by the secure service. This flag is enabled by default, but has no effect when the secure regression test is disabled. This flag can be overridden to OFF when building the regression tests. In this case, the PS rollback protection test suite will not be built, as it relies on extra functionality provided by the virtual NV counters to simulate different rollback scenarios. The remainder of the PS test suites will run using the hardware NV counters. Please note that running the tests in this configuration will quickly increase the hardware NV counter values, which cannot be decreased again. Overriding this flag from its default value of OFF when not building the regression tests is not currently supported.

  • PS_STACK_SIZE- Defines the stack size of the Protected Storage Secure Partition. This value mainly depends on the build type(debug, release and minisizerel) and compiler.

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