What’s in a hash?

After the initial work on meta-measured it was very clear that configuring an MLE is great but alone it has little value. Sure tboot will measure things for you, it will even store these measurements in your TPM’s PCRs! But the “so what?” remains unanswered: there are hashes in your TPM, who cares?

Even after you’ve set-up meta-measured, launch an MLE and dumped out the contents of /sys/class/misc/tpm0/device/pcrs what have you accomplished? The whole point of meta-measured was to setup the machinery to make this easier and for the PCR values to remain unchanged across a reboot. I was surprised at how much work went into just this. But after this work, the hashes in these PCRs still had no meaning beyond being mysterious, albeit static, hashes.

I closed the meta-measured post stating my next goal was to take a stab at pre-computing some PCR values. Knowing the values that PCRs will have in your final running system allows for secrets to be protected by sealed storage at install time (which I’ve heard called ‘local attestation’ just to confuse things). Naturally the more system state involved in the sealing operation (assume this means ‘more PCRs’ for now) the better. So I had hoped to come back after a bit with the tools necessary for meta-measured to produce a manifest of as many of the tboot PCR values as possible.

Starting with PCR[17]

Naturally I started with what I knew would be the hardest PCR to calculate: the infamous PCR[17]. JPs comment on my last post pointed out some of his heroic efforts to compute PCR[17] so that was a huge help. So first things first: respect to JP for the pointer. This task would have taken me twice as long were it not for his work and the work of others on tboot-devel.

So I set out to calculate PCR[17] but I think my approach was different from those I was able to find in the public domain. The criteria I came up with for my work was:

  1. Calculate PCR[17] for system A on system B.
  2. Do the measurements myself.

So ‘rule #1’ basically says: no reliance on having a console on the running system. This is one part technical purity, one part good design as the intent is to make these tools as flexible as possible and useful in a build system. ‘Rule #2’ is all technical purity. This isn’t an exercise in recreating the algorithm that produces the value that ends up in PCR[17].

This last bit is important. The whole point is to account for the actual things (software, configuration etc) that are measured as part of bringing up a TXT MLE. Once these are identified they need to be collected (maybe even extracted from the system) if possible, and then used to calculate the final hash stored in PCR[17]. So basically, no parsing and hashing the output from ‘txt-stat’, that’s cheating 🙂 I explained this approach to a friend and was instantly accused of masochism. That’s a good sign and I guess there’s an element of that in the approach as well, if not everything I do.

As always, wrapping up one exploratory exercise in learning / brushing up on a language is always a good idea right? So I did as much of my work as possible on this in Python. Naturally I had to break this rule and use some C at the end but that’s a bit of a punchline so I don’t want to spoil that joke.

So if you’re only interested in the code I won’t bore you with any more talk about ‘goals’ and ‘design’. It’s all up on github. The python’s here: https://github.com/flihp/pcr-calc. The C is here: https://github.com/flihp/pcr-calc_c. There isn’t much in the way of documentation but I’ll get into that soon.

If you are interested in the words that accompany this work stay tuned. My next post will give a bit of a tour of the rabbit hole that is calculating PCR[17]. This will include discussion of each ‘thing’ that’s measured and what it all means. Like I said though: the end result is that precalculating PCR[17] for arbitrary platforms is a massive PITA and likely not very useful for my original purposes. After thinking on it a bit however I’m quite certain this info may be useful elsewhere but I’ll save that for discussion on follow-on work.

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