Internal Trusted Storage (ITS) Service


Jamie Fox


Arm Limited


Jamie Fox <>

PSA Internal Trusted Storage

PSA Internal Trusted Storage (ITS) is a PSA RoT Service for storing the most security-critical device data (e.g. cryptographic keys) in internal storage, which is trusted to provide data confidentiality and authenticity. This contrasts with PSA Protected Storage, which is an Application RoT service that allows larger data sets to be stored securely in external flash, with the option for encryption, authentication and rollback protection to protect the data-at-rest.

Current TF-M Secure Storage

Currently, the TF-M Secure Storage service implements PSA Protected Storage version 1.0-beta2. There is not yet an implementation of PSA Internal Trusted Storage in TF-M.

New TF-M service

The proposal is to implement the PSA Internal Trusted Storage API with the TF-M Internal Trusted Storage service. It can be abbreviated to TF-M ITS service in general and to its in code. This name has the advantage of making clear the correspondence between the service and the API it implements.

If this name is adopted, then it may make sense to rename the Secure Storage service to the Protected Storage service in the future to match. Then “secure storage” could refer to the two services as a collective.

The TF-M ITS service will implement PSA ITS version 1.0. It will be provided by a separate partition to Protected Storage, for a couple of reasons:

  • To permit isolation between the services.

    • ITS is a PSA RoT Service, while Protected Storage is an Application RoT Service.

  • To avoid circular dependencies.

    • The PSA Firmware Framework does not permit circular dependencies between partitions, which would occur if Protected Storage and ITS were provided by the same partition. Protected Storage depends on Crypto, which in turn depends on ITS.

The existing SST filesystem will be reused to provide the backend of the service, with the flash layer modified to direct storage to internal flash, rather than external.

Compared to Protected Storage, encryption, authentication and rollback protection are not required, so the SST encrypted object layer and the crypto and NV counter interfaces are not required. The rollback protection feature of the object table is also not required.

Code structure

The code structure of the service will be as follows:

TF-M repo:


  • include/psa/internal_trusted_storage.h - PSA ITS API

  • src/tfm_its_api.c - PSA ITS API implementation for NSPE

secure_fw/ns_callable/tfm_veneers.c - ITS veneers (auto-generated from manifest)


  • tfm_internal_trusted_storage.yaml - Partition manifest

  • tfm_its_secure_api.c - PSA ITS API implementation for SPE

  • tfm_its_req_mngr.c - Uniform secure functions and IPC request handlers

  • tfm_internal_trusted_storage.h - TF-M ITS API (with client_id parameter)

  • tfm_internal_trusted_storage.c - TF-M ITS implementation, using the flash_fs as a backend

  • flash_fs/ - Filesystem

  • flash/ - Flash interface

tf-m-tests repo:


  • non_secure/psa_its_ns_interface_testsuite.c - Non-secure interface tests

  • secure/psa_its_s_interface_testsuite.c - Secure interface tests

TF-M ITS implementation

The following APIs will be exposed by tfm_internal_trusted_storage.h:

psa_status_t tfm_its_init(void);

psa_status_t tfm_its_set(int32_t client_id,
                         psa_storage_uid_t uid,
                         size_t data_length,
                         const void *p_data,
                         psa_storage_create_flags_t create_flags);

psa_status_t tfm_its_get(int32_t client_id,
                         psa_storage_uid_t uid,
                         size_t data_offset,
                         size_t data_size,
                         void *p_data,
                         size_t *p_data_length);

psa_status_t tfm_its_get_info(int32_t client_id,
                              psa_storage_uid_t uid,
                              struct psa_storage_info_t *p_info);

psa_status_t tfm_its_remove(int32_t client_id,
                            psa_storage_uid_t uid);

That is, the TF-M ITS APIs will have the same prototypes as the PSA ITS APIs, but with the addition of a client_id parameter, which will be passed from the ITS request manager. A tfm_its_init function will also be present, which will be called at initialisation time and not exposed through a veneer or SID.

The implementation in tfm_internal_trusted_storage.c must validate the parameters (excepting memory references, which are validated by the SPM), translate the UID and client ID into a file ID and then make appropriate calls to the filesystem layer. It must also take care ensure that any PSA Storage flags associated with the UID are honoured.


The ITS filesystem will be copied and modified from the SST filesystem. The modifications required will be to rename symbols from sst to its and to update the implementation to be aligned with the latest version of the PSA Storage spec (which consists mainly of moving to the psa_status_t error type and using common error codes from psa/error.h).

The filesystem will also be modified to align the size of each file stored to the alignment requirement exposed by the flash interface, by adding appropriate padding.

The filesystem code will be de-duplicated again once the ITS service is implemented (see below).

Flash layer

The flash layer will be copied from SST, and modified to direct writes to the internal flash device. It too needs to be updated to use psa_status_t error types.

Platform layer

The TF-M platform layer must be be updated to distinguish between the external flash device used for Protected Storage and internal flash device used for ITS. A flash region for the relevant storage service needs to be allocated in each.

On test platforms these may just be two distinct regions of the same flash device, but in general they will separate devices with their own drivers.

Detailed design considerations

Mapping UID onto file ID

The ITS APIs identify assets with 64-bit UIDs, to which the ITS service must append the 32-bit client ID of the calling partition for access control. The existing filesystem uses 32-bit file IDs to identify files, so some mapping would be required to convert between the identifiers.

SST uses the object table to do the mapping from client ID, UID pairs to file IDs, which means making an extra filesystem read/write for each get/set operation. This mapping has minimal overhead for SST though, because object table lookups are already required for rollback protection.

For ITS, no rollback protection feature is required, so there are two options:

  • Keep a simplified version of the SST object table that just maps from (client ID, UID) to file ID

  • Modify the filesystem to take (at least) 96-bit file IDs, in the form of a fixed-length char buffer.

The advantage of the former is that it would require no extra modification to the existing filesystem code, and the existing SST object table could be cut down for ITS. However, it would mean that every ITS request would invoke twice the number of filesystem operations, increasing latency and flash wear. The code size of the ITS partition would be increased, as would RAM usage as the table would need to be read into RAM.

The latter option would make the filesystem slightly more complex: the size of a metadata entry would be increased by 64-bits and the 96-bit fids would need to be copied and compared with memcpy and memcmp calls. On the other hand, mapping onto file IDs would incur only the cost of copying the UID and client ID values into the file ID buffer.

A third, even more general, solution would be to use arbitrary-length null-terminated strings as the file IDs. This is the standard solution in full-featured filesystems, but we do not currently require this level of complexity in secure storage.

With this in mind, the proposed option is the second.

Storing create flags

The ITS APIs provide a 32-bit create_flags parameter, which contains bit flags that determine the properties of the stored data. Only one flag is currently defined for ITS: PSA_STORAGE_FLAG_WRITE_ONCE, which prevents a UID from being modified or deleted after it is set for the first time.

There are two places that these flags could be stored: in the file data or as part of the file metadata.

For the first option, the ITS implementation would need to copy to the flags into the buffer containing the data, and adjust the size accordingly, for each set operation, and the reverse for each get. Every get_info operation would need to read some of the file data, rather than just the metadata, implying a second flash read. A potential downside is that many of the cryptographic assets stored in ITS will be aligned to power-of-two sizes; adding an extra 32-bits would misalign the size, which may reduce flash performance or necessitate adding padding to align to the flash page size.

To implement the second option, a 32-bit flag field would be added to the filesystem’s metadata structure, whose interpretation is defined by the user. This field would clearly be catered towards the PSA Storage APIs, even if nominally generic, and alternative filesystems may not have any such field. However, it is a more intuitive solution and would simplify both flash alignment and get_info operations.

Overall, it seems more beneficial to store the flags in the metadata, so this is the proposed solution.

Code sharing between Protected Storage and ITS

To de-duplicate the filesystem code used by both Protected Storage and ITS, it is proposed that Protected Storage calls ITS APIs as its backend filesystem.

Protected Storage essentially becomes an encryption, authentication and rollback protection layer on top of ITS. It makes IPC requests or secure function calls to the ITS service to do filesystem operations on its behalf.

This has a couple of advantages:

  • It shrinks Protected Storage’s stack size, because the filesystem and flash layer stack is only in ITS.

  • It automatically solves the problem of ensuring mutual exclusion in the filesystem and flash layers when Protected Storage and ITS are called concurrently. The second request to ITS will just be made to wait by the SPM.

The disadvantage of this approach is that it will increase the latency of Protected Storage requests, due to the extra overhead associated with making a second IPC request or secure function call. It also limits Protected Storage to using only the ITS APIs, unless extra veneers are added solely for Protected Storage to use. This, for example, prevents Protected Storage from doing partial writes to file without reading and re-writing the whole file.

ITS will need to be modified to direct calls from Protected Storage to a different flash device. It can use the client ID to detect when the caller is Protected Storage, and pass down the identity of the flash device to use to the flash layer, which then calls the appropriate driver.

An open question is what to do if Protected Storage itself wants to store something in internal storage in the future (e.g. rollback counters, hash tree/table or top hash). A couple of possible solutions would be:

  • Divide up the UIDs, so certain UIDs from Protected Storage refer to assets in internal storage, and others to ones in external storage.

  • Use the type field of psa_call in IPC model and extra veneers in library model to distinguish between internal and external storage requests.

The other option for code sharing would be for Protected Storage and ITS to directly share filesystem code, which would be placed in a shared code region. With this approach, mutual exclusion to the flash device would need to be implemented separately, as would some way of isolating static memory belonging to each partition but not the code. Because of these complications, this option has not been considered further at this time.

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