Firmware Update Service


Sherry Zhang


Arm Limited


Sherry Zhang <>

Introduction of Firmware Update service

The Firmware Update(FWU) service provides the functionality of updating firmware images. It provides a standard interface for updating firmware and it is platform independent. TF-M defines a shim layer to support cooperation between bootloader and FWU service.

This partition supports the following features:

  • Query image information Fetch information about the firmware images on the device. This covers the images in the running area and also the staging area.

  • Store image Write a candidate image to its staging area.

  • Validate image Starts the validation of the image.

  • Trigger reboot Trigger a reboot to restart the platform.


The structure of the TF-M Firmware Update service is listed below:

Component name



SPE client API interface

This module exports the client API of PSA Firmware Update to the other services available in TF-M.


NSPE client API interface

This module exports the client API of PSA Firmware Update to the NSPE(i.e. to the applications).

./interface/src/tfm_firmware_update_func_api.c ./interface/src/tfm_firmware_update_ipc_api.c


The manifest file is a description of the service components for both library mode and IPC mode.


Secure functions and IPC request handlers

This module handles all the secure function requests in library model and all the service requests in IPC model. It maitains the image state context and calls the image ID converter to achieve the firmware update functionalities.


Image ID Converter

This module converts the image ID between psa_image_id_t, which is the image ID structure in user interfaces, and bl_image_id_t which is the image ID structure in bootloader.


Shim layer between FWU and bootloader

This module provides the APIs with the functionality of operating the bootloader to cooperate with the Firmware Update service


Shim layer example based on MCUboot

This module is the implementation of the shim layer between FWU and bootloader based on MCUboot.


Service API description

This service follows the PSA Firmware Update API spec of version 0.7 1. It implements the mandatory interface functions listed in section 5.1 and the optional interface psa_fwu_accept(). Please refer to Firmware Update spec for the detailed description.

Shim Layer between FWU and bootloader

The firmware update operations are achieved by calling the shim layer APIs between bootloader and FWU.

Shim layer introduction

This shim layer provides the APIs with the functionality of operating the bootloader to cooperate with the Firmware Update service. This shim layer is decoupled from bootloader implementation. Users can specify a specific bootloader by setting TFM_FWU_BOOTLOADER_LIB build configuration and adding the specific build scripts into that file. By default, the MCUboot is chosen as the bootloader.

Interfaces of the shim Layer


psa_status_t fwu_bootloader_init(void);

Bootloader related initialization for the firmware update. It reads some necessary shared data from the memory if needed. It initializes the flash drivers defined in FLASH_DRIVER_LIST. Platform can define FLASH_DRIVER_LIST in flash_layout.h to overload the default driver list.



psa_status_t fwu_bootloader_staging_area_init(bl_image_id_t bootloader_image_id);


Prepare the staging area of the image with the given ID for image download. For example, initialize the staging area, open the flash area, and so on. The image will be written into the staging area later.


  • bootloader_image_id: The identifier of the target image in bootloader.



psa_status_t fwu_bootloader_load_image(bl_image_id_t bootloader_image_id,
                                       size_t        image_offset,
                                       const void    *block,
                                       size_t        block_size);


Load the image to its staging area.


  • bootloader_image_id: The identifier of the target image in bootloader.

  • image_offset: The offset of the image being passed into block, in bytes.

  • block: A buffer containing a block of image data. This might be a complete image or a subset.

  • block_size: Size of block.



psa_status_t fwu_bootloader_install_image(bl_image_id_t bootloader_image_id,
                                          bl_image_id_t       *dependency,
                                          psa_image_version_t *dependency_version);


Check the authenticity and integrity of the image. If a reboot is required to complete the check, then mark this image as a candidate so that the next time bootloader runs it will take this image as a candidate one to bootup. Return the error code PSA_SUCCESS_REBOOT.


  • bootloader_image_id: The identifier of the target image in bootloader.

  • dependency: Bootloader image ID of dependency if needed.

  • dependency_version: Bootloader image version of dependency if needed.



psa_status_t fwu_bootloader_mark_image_accepted(bl_image_id_t bootloader_image_id);


Call this API to mark the running images as permanent/accepted to avoid revert when next time bootup. Usually, this API is called after the running images have been verified as valid.





psa_status_t fwu_bootloader_abort(void);


Abort the current image download process.





psa_status_t fwu_bootloader_get_image_info(bl_image_id_t    bootloader_image_id,
                                           bool             staging_area,
                                           tfm_image_info_t *info);


Get the image information of the given bootloader_image_id in the staging area or the running area.


  • bootloader_image_id: The identifier of the target image in bootloader.

  • active_image: Indicates image location.

    • True: the running image.

    • False: the image in the passive(or staging) slot.

  • info: Buffer containing the image information.

Additional shared data between BL2 and SPE

An additional TLV area “image version” is added into the shared memory between BL2 and TF-M. So that the firmware update partition can get the image version. Even though the image version information is also included in the BOOT RECORD TLV area which is encoded by CBOR, adding a dedicated image version TLV area is preferred to avoid involving the CBOR encoder which can increase the code size. The FWU partition will read the shared data at the partition initialization.

Image ID structure

The structure of image ID is:

image_id[7:0]: slot. image_id[15:8]: image type. image_id[31:16]: specific image ID.

Three image types are defined in this partition. - FWU_IMAGE_TYPE_NONSECURE: the non_secure image - FWU_IMAGE_TYPE_SECURE: the secure image - FWU_IMAGE_TYPE_FULL: the secure + non_secure image

Macros FWU_CALCULATE_IMAGE_ID, FWU_IMAGE_ID_GET_TYPE and FWU_IMAGE_ID_GET_SLOT are dedicated to converting the image id, type, and slot. The service users can call these macros to get the image ID.


The image ID structure, as well as the macros listed here, is TF-M specific implementation.

Benefits Analysis on this Partition

Implement the FWU functionality in the non-secure side

The APIs listed in PSA Firmware Update API spec 1 can also be implemented in the non-secure side. The library model implementation can be referred to for the non-secure side implementation.

Pros and Cons for Implementing FWU APIs in Secure Side


  • It protects the image in the passive or staging area from being tampered with by the NSPE. Otherwise, a malicious actor from NSPE can tamper the image stored in the non-secure area to break image update.

  • It protects secure image information from disclosure. In some cases, the non-secure side shall not be permitted to get secure image information.

  • It protects the active image from being manipulated by NSPE. Some bootloader supports testing the image. After the image is successfully installed and starts to run, the user should set the image as permanent image if the image passes the test. To achieve this, the area of the active image needs to be accessed. In this case, implementing FWU service in SPE can prevent NSPE from manipulating the active image area.

  • On some devices, such as the Arm Musca-B1 board, the passive or staging area is restricted as secure access only. In this case, the FWU partition should be implemented in the secure side.


  • It increases the image size of the secure image.

  • It increases the execution latency and footprint. Compared to implementing FWU in NSPE directly, calling the Firmware Update APIs which are implemented in the secure side increases the execution latency and footprint.

  • It can increase the attack surface of the secure runtime.

Users can decide whether to call the FWU service in TF-M directly or implement the Firmware Update APIs in the non-secure side based on the pros and cons analysis above.



PSA Firwmare Update API

Copyright (c) 2021, Arm Limited. All rights reserved.