1. RFC 9019
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                          B. Moran
Request for Comments: 9019                                 H. Tschofenig
Category: Informational                                      Arm Limited
ISSN: 2070-1721                                                 D. Brown
                                                               M. Meriac
                                                              April 2021

         A Firmware Update Architecture for Internet of Things


   Vulnerabilities in Internet of Things (IoT) devices have raised the
   need for a reliable and secure firmware update mechanism suitable for
   devices with resource constraints.  Incorporating such an update
   mechanism is a fundamental requirement for fixing vulnerabilities,
   but it also enables other important capabilities such as updating
   configuration settings and adding new functionality.

   In addition to the definition of terminology and an architecture,
   this document provides the motivation for the standardization of a
   manifest format as a transport-agnostic means for describing and
   protecting firmware updates.

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF).  It represents the consensus of the IETF community.  It has
   received public review and has been approved for publication by the
   Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Not all documents
   approved by the IESG are candidates for any level of Internet
   Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 7841.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2021 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
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   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
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   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction
   2.  Conventions and Terminology
     2.1.  Terms
     2.2.  Stakeholders
     2.3.  Functions
   3.  Architecture
   4.  Invoking the Firmware
     4.1.  The Bootloader
   5.  Types of IoT Devices
     5.1.  Single MCU
     5.2.  Single CPU with Partitioning between Secure Mode and Normal
     5.3.  Symmetric Multiple CPUs
     5.4.  Dual CPU, Shared Memory
     5.5.  Dual CPU, Other Bus
   6.  Manifests
   7.  Securing Firmware Updates
   8.  Example
   9.  IANA Considerations
   10. Security Considerations
   11. Informative References
   Authors' Addresses

1.  Introduction

   Firmware updates can help to fix security vulnerabilities, and
   performing updates is an important building block in securing IoT
   devices.  Due to rising concerns about insecure IoT devices, the
   Internet Architecture Board (IAB) organized the Internet of Things
   Software Update (IoTSU) Workshop [RFC8240] to take a look at the
   bigger picture.  The workshop revealed a number of challenges for
   developers and led to the formation of the IETF Software Updates for
   Internet of Things (SUIT) Working Group.

   Developing secure IoT devices is not an easy task, and supporting a
   firmware update solution requires skillful engineers.  Once devices
   are deployed, firmware updates play a critical part in their life-
   cycle management, particularly when devices have a long lifetime or
   are deployed in remote or inaccessible areas where manual
   intervention is cost prohibitive or otherwise difficult.  Firmware
   updates for IoT devices are expected to work automatically, i.e.,
   without user involvement.  Conversely, non-IoT devices are expected
   to account for user preferences and consent when scheduling updates.
   Automatic updates that do not require human intervention are key to a
   scalable solution for fixing software vulnerabilities.

   Firmware updates are done not only to fix bugs but also to add new
   functionality and to reconfigure the device to work in new
   environments or to behave differently in an already-deployed context.

   The manifest specification has to allow the following:

   *  The firmware image is authenticated and integrity protected.
      Attempts to flash a maliciously modified firmware image or an
      image from an unknown, untrusted source must be prevented.  This
      document uses asymmetric cryptography in examples because it is
      the preferred approach by many IoT deployments.  The use of
      symmetric credentials is also supported and can be used by very
      constrained IoT devices.

   *  The firmware image can be confidentiality protected so that
      attempts by an adversary to recover the plaintext binary can be
      mitigated or at least made more difficult.  Obtaining the firmware
      is often one of the first steps to mounting an attack since it
      gives the adversary valuable insights into the software libraries
      used, configuration settings, and generic functionality.  Even
      though reverse engineering the binary can be a tedious process,
      modern reverse engineering frameworks have made this task a lot

   Authentication and integrity protection of firmware images must be
   used in a deployment, but the confidential protection of firmware is

   While the standardization work has been informed by and optimized for
   firmware update use cases of Class 1 devices (according to the device
   class definitions in RFC 7228 [RFC7228]), there is nothing in the
   architecture that restricts its use to only these constrained IoT
   devices.  Moreover, this architecture is not limited to managing
   firmware and software updates but can also be applied to managing the
   delivery of arbitrary data, such as configuration information and
   keys.  Unlike higher-end devices, like laptops and desktop PCs, many
   IoT devices do not have user interfaces; therefore, support for
   unattended updates is essential for the design of a practical
   solution.  Constrained IoT devices often use a software engineering
   model where a developer is responsible for creating and compiling all
   software running on the device into a single, monolithic firmware
   image.  On higher-end devices, application software is, on the other
   hand, often downloaded separately and even obtained from developers
   different from the developers of the lower-level software.  The
   details for how to obtain those application-layer software binaries
   then depend heavily on the platform, the programming language used,
   and the sandbox in which the software is executed.

   While the IETF standardization work has been focused on the manifest
   format, a fully interoperable solution needs more than a standardized
   manifest.  For example, protocols for transferring firmware images
   and manifests to the device need to be available, as well as the
   status tracker functionality.  Devices also require a mechanism to
   discover the status tracker(s) and/or firmware servers, for example,
   using preconfigured hostnames or DNS-based Service Discovery (DNS-SD)
   [RFC6763].  These building blocks have been developed by various
   organizations under the umbrella of an IoT device management
   solution.  The Lightweight Machine-to-Machine (LwM2M) protocol
   [LwM2M] is one IoT device management protocol.

   However, there are several areas that (partially) fall outside the
   scope of the IETF and other standards organizations but need to be
   considered by firmware authors as well as device and network
   operators.  Here are some of them, as highlighted during the IoTSU

   *  Installing firmware updates in a robust fashion so that the update
      does not break the device functionality of the environment in
      which this device operates.  This requires proper testing and
      offering of recovery strategies when a firmware update is

   *  Making firmware updates available in a timely fashion considering
      the complexity of the decision-making process for updating
      devices, potential recertification requirements, the length of a
      supply chain an update needs to go through before it reaches the
      end customer, and the need for user consent to install updates.

   *  Ensuring an energy-efficient design of a battery-powered IoT
      device; a firmware update, particularly radio communication and
      writing the firmware image to flash, is an energy-intensive task
      for a device.

   *  Creating incentives for device operators to use a firmware update
      mechanism and to require its integration from IoT device vendors.

   *  Ensuring that firmware updates addressing critical flaws can be
      obtained even after a product is discontinued or a vendor goes out
      of business.

   This document starts with a terminology list followed by a
   description of the architecture.  We then explain the bootloader and
   how it integrates with the firmware update mechanism.  Subsequently,
   we offer a categorization of IoT devices in terms of their hardware
   capabilities relevant for firmware updates.  Next, we talk about the
   manifest structure and how to use it to secure firmware updates.  We
   conclude with a more detailed example of a message flow for
   distributing a firmware image to a device.

2.  Conventions and Terminology

2.1.  Terms

   This document uses the following terms:

   Firmware Image:
      The firmware image, or simply the "image", is a binary that may
      contain the complete software of a device or a subset of it.  The
      firmware image may consist of multiple images if the device
      contains more than one microcontroller.  Often, it is also a
      compressed archive that contains code, configuration data, and
      even the entire file system.  The image may consist of a
      differential update for performance reasons.

      The terms "firmware image", "firmware", and "image" are used in
      this document and are interchangeable.  We use the term
      "application firmware image" to differentiate it from a firmware
      image that contains the bootloader.  An application firmware
      image, as the name indicates, contains the application program
      often including all the necessary code to run it (such as protocol
      stacks and an embedded operating system (OS)).

      The manifest contains metadata about the firmware image.  The
      manifest is protected against modification and provides
      information about the author.

      A microcontroller unit (MCU) is a compact integrated circuit
      designed for use in embedded systems.  A typical microcontroller
      includes a processor, memory (RAM and flash), input/output (I/O)
      ports, and other features connected via some bus on a single chip.
      The term "system on chip" (SoC) is often used interchangeably with
      MCU, but MCU tends to imply more limited peripheral functions.

   Rich Execution Environment (REE):
      An environment that is provided and governed by a typical OS
      (e.g., Linux, Windows, Android, iOS), potentially in conjunction
      with other supporting operating systems and hypervisors; it is
      outside of the Trusted Execution Environment (TEE).  This
      environment and the applications running on it are considered

      Similar to firmware but typically dynamically loaded by an OS.
      Used interchangeably with firmware in this document.

   System on Chip (SoC):
      An SoC is an integrated circuit that contains all components of a
      computer, such as the CPU, memory, I/O ports, secondary storage, a
      bus to connect the components, and other hardware blocks of logic.

   Trust Anchor:
      A trust anchor, as defined in RFC 6024 [RFC6024], represents an
      authoritative entity via a public key and associated data.  The
      public key is used to verify digital signatures, and the
      associated data is used to constrain the types of information for
      which the trust anchor is authoritative.

   Trust Anchor Store:
      A trust anchor store, as defined in [RFC6024], is a set of one or
      more trust anchors stored in a device.  A device may have more
      than one trust anchor store, each of which may be used by one or
      more applications.  A trust anchor store must resist modification
      against unauthorized insertion, deletion, and modification.

   Trusted Applications (TAs):
      An application component that runs in a TEE.

   Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs):
      An execution environment that runs alongside of, but is isolated
      from, an REE.  For more information about TEEs, see [TEEP-ARCH].

2.2.  Stakeholders

   The following stakeholders are used in this document:

      The author is the entity that creates the firmware image.  There
      may be multiple authors involved in producing firmware running on
      an IoT device.  Section 5 talks about those IoT device deployment

   Device Operator:
      The device operator is responsible for the day-to-day operation of
      a fleet of IoT devices.  Customers of IoT devices, as the owners
      of IoT devices (such as enterprise customers or end users),
      interact with their IoT devices indirectly through the device
      operator via the Web or smartphone apps.

   Network Operator:
      The network operator is responsible for the operation of a network
      to which IoT devices connect.

   Trust Provisioning Authority (TPA):
      The TPA distributes trust anchors and authorization policies to
      devices and various stakeholders.  The TPA may also delegate
      rights to stakeholders.  Typically, the original equipment
      manufacturer (OEM) or original design manufacturer (ODM) will act
      as a TPA; however, complex supply chains may require a different
      design.  In some cases, the TPA may decide to remain in full
      control over the firmware update process of their products.

      The end user of a device.  The user may interact with devices via
      the Web or smartphone apps, as well as through direct user

2.3.  Functions

   (IoT) Device:
      A device refers to the entire IoT product, which consists of one
      or many MCUs, sensors, and/or actuators.  Many IoT devices sold
      today contain multiple MCUs; therefore, a single device may need
      to obtain more than one firmware image and manifest to
      successfully perform an update.

   Status Tracker:
      The status tracker has a client and a server component and
      performs three tasks:

      1.  It communicates the availability of a new firmware version.
          This information will flow from the server to the client.

      2.  It conveys information about the software and hardware
          characteristics of the device.  The information flow is from
          the client to the server.

      3.  It can remotely trigger the firmware update process.  The
          information flow is from the server to the client.

      For example, a device operator may want to read the installed
      firmware version number running on the device and information
      about available flash memory.  Once an update has been triggered,
      the device operator may want to obtain information about the state
      of the firmware update.  If errors occurred, the device operator
      may want to troubleshoot problems by first obtaining diagnostic
      information (typically using a device management protocol).

      We make no assumptions about where the server-side component is
      deployed.  The deployment of status trackers is flexible: they may
      be found at cloud-based servers or on-premise servers, or they may
      be embedded in edge computing devices.  A status tracker server
      component may even be deployed on an IoT device.  For example, if
      the IoT device contains multiple MCUs, then the main MCU may act
      as a status tracker towards the other MCUs.  Such deployment is
      useful when updates have to be synchronized across MCUs.

      The status tracker may be operated by any suitable stakeholder,
      typically the author, device operator, or network operator.

   Firmware Consumer:
      The firmware consumer is the recipient of the firmware image and
      the manifest.  It is responsible for parsing and verifying the
      received manifest and for storing the obtained firmware image.
      The firmware consumer plays the role of the update component on
      the IoT device, typically running in the application firmware.  It
      interacts with the firmware server and the status tracker client

   Firmware Server:
      The firmware server stores firmware images and manifests and
      distributes them to IoT devices.  Some deployments may require a
      store-and-forward concept, which requires storing the firmware
      images and/or manifests on more than one entity before they reach
      the device.  There is typically some interaction between the
      firmware server and the status tracker, and these two entities are
      often physically separated on different devices for scalability

      A bootloader is a piece of software that is executed once a
      microcontroller has been reset.  It is responsible for deciding
      what code to execute.

3.  Architecture

   More devices than ever before are connected to the Internet, which
   drives the need for firmware updates to be provided over the Internet
   rather than through traditional interfaces, such as USB or RS-232.
   Sending updates over the Internet requires the device to fetch the
   new firmware image as well as the manifest.

   Hence, the following components are necessary on a device for a
   firmware update solution:

   *  The Internet protocol stack for firmware downloads.  Firmware
      images are often multiple kilobytes, sometimes exceeding one
      hundred kilobytes, for low-end IoT devices and can even be several
      megabytes for IoT devices running full-fledged operating systems
      like Linux.  The protocol mechanism for retrieving these images
      needs to offer features like congestion control, flow control,
      fragmentation and reassembly, and mechanisms to resume interrupted
      or corrupted transfers.

   *  The capability to write the received firmware image to persistent
      storage (most likely flash memory).

   *  A manifest parser with code to verify a digital signature or a
      message authentication code (MAC).

   *  The ability to unpack, decompress, and/or decrypt the received
      firmware image.

   *  A status tracker.

   The features listed above are most likely provided by code in the
   application firmware image running on the device rather than by the
   bootloader itself.  Note that cryptographic algorithms will likely
   run in a trusted execution environment on a separate MCU in a
   hardware security module or in a secure element rather than in the
   same context as the application code.

   Figure 1 shows the architecture where a firmware image is created by
   an author and made available to a firmware server.  For security
   reasons, the author will not have the permissions to upload firmware
   images to the firmware server and to initiate an update directly.
   Instead, authors will make firmware images available to the device
   operators.  Note that there may be a longer supply chain involved to
   pass software updates from the author all the way to the authorizing
   party, which can then finally make a decision to deploy it with IoT

   As a first step in the firmware update process, the status tracker
   server needs to inform the status tracker client that a new firmware
   update is available.  This can be accomplished via polling (client
   initiated), push notifications (server initiated), or more complex
   mechanisms (such as a hybrid approach):

   *  Client-initiated updates take the form of a status tracker client
      proactively checking (polling) for updates.

   *  With server-initiated updates, the server-side component of the
      status tracker learns about a new firmware version and determines
      which devices qualify for a firmware update.  Once the relevant
      devices have been selected, the status tracker informs these
      devices, and the firmware consumers obtain those images and
      manifests.  Server-initiated updates are important because they
      allow a quick response time.  Note that in this mode, the client-
      side status tracker needs to be reachable by the server-side
      component.  This may require devices to keep reachability
      information on the server side up to date and the state at NATs
      and stateful packet filtering firewalls alive.

   *  Using a hybrid approach, the server side of the status tracker
      pushes update availability notifications to the client side and
      requests that the firmware consumer pull the manifest and the
      firmware image from the firmware server.

   Once the device operator triggers an update via the status tracker,
   it will keep track of the update process on the device.  This allows
   the device operator to know what devices have received an update and
   which of them are still pending an update.

   Firmware images can be conveyed to devices in a variety of ways,
   including USB, Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter (UART),
   WiFi, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), low-power WAN technologies, mesh
   networks and many more.  At the application layer, a variety of
   protocols are also available: Message Queuing Telemetry Transport
   (MQTT), Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP), and HTTP are the
   most popular application-layer protocols used by IoT devices.  This
   architecture does not make assumptions about how the firmware images
   are distributed to the devices and therefore aims to support all
   these technologies.

   In some cases, it may be desirable to distribute firmware images
   using a multicast or broadcast protocol.  This architecture does not
   make recommendations for any such protocol.  However, given that
   broadcast may be desirable for some networks, updates must cause the
   least disruption possible both in the metadata and firmware
   transmission.  For an update to be broadcast friendly, it cannot rely
   on link-layer, network-layer, or transport-layer security.  A
   solution has to rely on security protection applied to the manifest
   and firmware image instead.  In addition, the same manifest must be
   deliverable to many devices, both those to which it applies and those
   to which it does not, without a chance that the wrong device will
   accept the update.  Considerations that apply to network broadcasts
   apply equally to the use of third-party content distribution networks
   for payload distribution.

                                                       |          |
                                                       |  Author  |
                                                       |          |
                        Firmware + Manifest                 |
               +----------------------------------+         | Firmware +
               |                                  |         | Manifest
               |                               ---+-------  |
               |                           ----   |       --|-
               |                         //+----------+     | \\
              -+--                      // |          |     |   \
         ----/ |  ----                |/   | Firmware |<-+  |    \
       //      |      \\              |    | Server   |  |  |     \
      /        |        \             /    |          |  +  +      \
     /         |         \           /     +----------+   \ /       |
    / +--------+--------+ \         /                      |        |
   /  |        v        |  \       /                       v        |
  |   | +------------+  |   |     |          +----------------+      |
  |   | |  Firmware  |  |   |     |          |     Device     |      |
  |   | |  Consumer  |  |   |     |          |     Management |      |
 |    | +------------+  |    |    |          |                |      |
 |    | +------------+  |    |    |          |    +--------+  |      |
 |    | |  Status    |<-+--------------------+->  |        |  |      |
 |    | |  Tracker   |  |    |    |          |    | Status |  |      |
 |    | |  Client    |  |    |    |          |    | Tracker|  |     |
  |   | +------------+  |   |     |          |    | Server |  |     |
  |   |    Device       |   |      |         |    +--------+  |     |
  |   +-----------------+   |       \        |                |    /
   \                       /         \       +----------------+   /
    \       Network       /           \                          /
     \     Operator      /             \     Device Operator    /
      \\               //               \\                    //
         ----     ----                     ----           ----
             -----                             -----------

                         Figure 1: Architecture

   Firmware images and manifests may be conveyed as a bundle or
   detached.  The manifest format must support both approaches.

   For distribution as a bundle, the firmware image is embedded into the
   manifest.  This is a useful approach for deployments where devices
   are not connected to the Internet and cannot contact a dedicated
   firmware server for the firmware download.  It is also applicable
   when the firmware update happens via USB sticks or short-range radio
   technologies (such as Bluetooth Smart).

   Alternatively, the manifest is distributed detached from the firmware
   image.  Using this approach, the firmware consumer is presented with
   the manifest first and then needs to obtain one or more firmware
   images as dictated in the manifest.

   The pre-authorization step involves verifying whether the entity
   signing the manifest is indeed authorized to perform an update.  The
   firmware consumer must also determine whether it should fetch and
   process a firmware image, which is referenced in a manifest.

   A dependency resolution phase is needed when more than one component
   can be updated or when a differential update is used.  The necessary
   dependencies must be available prior to installation.

   The download step is the process of acquiring a local copy of the
   firmware image.  When the download is client initiated, this means
   that the firmware consumer chooses when a download occurs and
   initiates the download process.  When a download is server initiated,
   this means that the status tracker tells the device when to download
   or that it initiates the transfer directly to the firmware consumer.
   For example, a download from an HTTP/1.1-based firmware server is
   client initiated.  Pushing a manifest and firmware image to the
   Package Resource of the LwM2M Firmware Update Object [LwM2M] is a
   server-initiated update.

   If the firmware consumer has downloaded a new firmware image and is
   ready to install it, to initiate the installation, it may

   *  need to wait for a trigger from the status tracker,

   *  trigger the update automatically, or

   *  go through a more complex decision-making process to determine the
      appropriate timing for an update.

   Sometimes the final decision may require confirmation of the user of
   the device for safety reasons.

   Installation is the act of processing the payload into a format that
   the IoT device can recognize, and the bootloader is responsible for
   then booting from the newly installed firmware image.  This process
   is different when a bootloader is not involved.  For example, when an
   application is updated in a full-featured OS, the updater may halt
   and restart the application in isolation.  Devices must not fail when
   a disruption, such as a power failure or network interruption, occurs
   during the update process.

4.  Invoking the Firmware

   Section 3 describes the steps for getting the firmware image and the
   manifest from the author to the firmware consumer on the IoT device.
   Once the firmware consumer has retrieved and successfully processed
   the manifest and the firmware image, it needs to invoke the new
   firmware image.  This is managed in many different ways depending on
   the type of device, but it typically involves halting the current
   version of the firmware, handing over control to firmware with a
   higher privilege or trust level (the firmware verifier), verifying
   the new firmware's authenticity and integrity, and then invoking it.

   In an execute-in-place microcontroller, this is often done by
   rebooting into a bootloader (simultaneously halting the application
   and handing over control to the higher privilege level) then
   executing a secure boot process (verifying and invoking the new

   In a rich OS, this may be done by halting one or more processes and
   then invoking new applications.  In some OSes, this implicitly
   involves the kernel verifying the code signatures on the new

   The invocation process is security sensitive.  An attacker will
   typically try to retrieve a firmware image from the device for
   reverse engineering or will try to get the firmware verifier to
   execute an attacker-modified firmware image.  Therefore, firmware
   verifier will have to perform security checks on the firmware image
   before it can be invoked.  These security checks by the firmware
   verifier happen in addition to the security checks that took place
   when the firmware image and the manifest were downloaded by the
   firmware consumer.

   The overlap between the firmware consumer and the firmware verifier
   functionality comes in two forms, namely:

   *  A firmware verifier must verify the firmware image it boots as
      part of the secure boot process.  Doing so requires metadata to be
      stored alongside the firmware image so that the firmware verifier
      can cryptographically verify the firmware image before booting it
      to ensure it has not been tampered with or replaced.  This
      metadata used by the firmware verifier may well be the same
      manifest obtained with the firmware image during the update

   *  An IoT device needs a recovery strategy in case the firmware
      update/invocation process fails.  The recovery strategy may
      include storing two or more application firmware images on the
      device or offering the ability to invoke a recovery image to
      perform the firmware update process again using firmware updates
      over serial, USB, or even wireless connectivity like Bluetooth
      Smart.  In the latter case, the firmware consumer functionality is
      contained in the recovery image and requires the necessary
      functionality for executing the firmware update process, including
      manifest parsing.

   While this document assumes that the firmware verifier itself is
   distinct from the role of the firmware consumer and therefore does
   not manage the firmware update process, this is not a requirement,
   and these roles may be combined in practice.

   Using a bootloader as the firmware verifier requires some special
   considerations, particularly when the bootloader implements the
   robustness requirements identified by the IoTSU workshop [RFC8240].

4.1.  The Bootloader

   In most cases, the MCU must restart in order to hand over control to
   the bootloader.  Once the MCU has initiated a restart, the bootloader
   determines whether a newly available firmware image should be
   executed.  If the bootloader concludes that the newly available
   firmware image is invalid, a recovery strategy is necessary.  There
   are only two approaches for recovering from invalid firmware: either
   the bootloader must be able to select different, valid firmware or it
   must be able to obtain new, valid firmware.  Both of these approaches
   have implications for the architecture of the update system.

   Assuming the first approach, there are (at least) three firmware
   images available on the device:

   *  First, the bootloader is also firmware.  If a bootloader is
      updatable, then its firmware image is treated like any other
      application firmware image.

   *  Second, the firmware image that has to be replaced is still
      available on the device as a backup in case the freshly downloaded
      firmware image does not boot or operate correctly.

   *  Third, there is the newly downloaded firmware image.

   Therefore, the firmware consumer must know where to store the new
   firmware.  In some cases, this may be implicit (for example,
   replacing the least recently used firmware image).  In other cases,
   the storage location of the new firmware must be explicit, for
   example, when a device has one or more application firmware images
   and a recovery image with limited functionality, sufficient only to
   perform an update.

   Since many low-end IoT devices do not use position-independent code,
   either the bootloader needs to copy the newly downloaded application
   firmware image into the location of the old application firmware
   image and vice versa or multiple versions of the firmware need to be
   prepared for different locations.

   In general, it is assumed that the bootloader itself, or a minimal
   part of it, will not be updated since a failed update of the
   bootloader poses a reliability risk.

   For a bootloader to offer a secure boot functionality, it needs to
   implement the following functionality:

   *  The bootloader needs to fetch the manifest from nonvolatile
      storage and parse its contents for subsequent cryptographic

   *  Cryptographic libraries with hash functions, digital signatures
      (for asymmetric crypto), and message authentication codes (for
      symmetric crypto) need to be accessible.

   *  The device needs to have a trust anchor store to verify the
      digital signature.  Alternatively, access to a key store for use
      with the message authentication code may be used.

   *  There must be an ability to expose boot-process-related data to
      the application firmware (such as the status tracker).  This
      allows information sharing about the current firmware version and
      the status of the firmware update process and whether errors have

   *  Produce boot measurements as part of an attestation solution; see
      [RATS-ARCH] for more information (optional).

   *  The bootloader must be able to decrypt firmware images in case
      confidentiality protection was applied.  This requires a solution
      for key management (optional).

5.  Types of IoT Devices

   Today, there are billions of MCUs used in devices produced by a large
   number of silicon manufacturers.  While MCUs can vary significantly
   in their characteristics, there are a number of similarities that
   allow us to categorize them into groups.

   The firmware update architecture, and the manifest format in
   particular, needs to offer enough flexibility to cover these common
   deployment cases.

5.1.  Single MCU

   The simplest and currently most common architecture consists of a
   single MCU along with its own peripherals.  These SoCs generally
   contain some amount of flash memory for code and fixed data, as well
   as RAM for working storage.  A notable characteristic of these SoCs
   is that the primary code is generally execute in place (XIP).  Due to
   the non-relocatable nature of the code, the firmware image needs to
   be placed in a specific location in flash memory since the code
   cannot be executed from an arbitrary location therein.  Hence, when
   the firmware image is updated, it is necessary to swap the old and
   the new image.

5.2.  Single CPU with Partitioning between Secure Mode and Normal Mode

   Another configuration consists of a similar architecture to the one
   previously discussed: it contains a single CPU.  However, this CPU
   supports a security partitioning scheme that allows memory and other
   system components to be divided into secure and normal mode.  There
   will generally be two images: one for secure mode and one for normal
   mode.  In this configuration, firmware upgrades will generally be
   done by the CPU in secure mode, which is able to write to both areas
   of the flash device.  In addition, there are requirements to be able
   to update either image independently as well as to update them
   together atomically, as specified in the associated manifests.

5.3.  Symmetric Multiple CPUs

   In more complex SoCs with symmetric multiprocessing support, advanced
   operating systems, such as Linux, are often used.  These SoCs
   frequently use an external storage medium, such as raw NAND flash or
   an embedded Multimedia Card (eMMC).  Due to the higher quantity of
   resources, these devices are often capable of storing multiple copies
   of their firmware images and selecting the most appropriate one to
   boot.  Many SoCs also support bootloaders that are capable of
   updating the firmware image; however, this is typically a last resort
   because it requires the device to be held in the bootloader while the
   new firmware is downloaded and installed, which results in downtime
   for the device.  Firmware updates in this class of device are
   typically not done in place.

5.4.  Dual CPU, Shared Memory

   This configuration has two or more heterogeneous CPUs in a single SoC
   that share memory (flash and RAM).  Generally, there will be a
   mechanism to prevent one CPU from unintentionally accessing memory
   currently allocated to the other.  Upgrades in this case will
   typically be done by one of the CPUs and is similar to the single CPU
   with secure mode.

5.5.  Dual CPU, Other Bus

   This configuration has two or more heterogeneous CPUs, each having
   their own memory.  There will be a communication channel between
   them, but it will be used as a peripheral, not via shared memory.  In
   this case, each CPU will have to be responsible for its own firmware
   upgrade.  It is likely that one of the CPUs will be considered the
   primary CPU and will direct the other CPU to do the upgrade.  This
   configuration is commonly used to offload specific work to other
   CPUs.  Firmware dependencies are similar to the other solutions
   above: sometimes allowing only one image to be upgraded, other times
   requiring several to be upgraded atomically.  Because the updates are
   happening on multiple CPUs, upgrading the two images atomically is

6.  Manifests

   In order for a firmware consumer to apply an update, it has to make
   several decisions using manifest-provided information and data
   available on the device itself.  For more detailed information and a
   longer list of information elements in the manifest, consult the
   information model specification [SUIT-INFO-MODEL], which offers
   justifications for each element, and the manifest specification
   [SUIT-MANIFEST] for details about how this information is included in
   the manifest.

    |                 Decision | Information Elements                |
    |       Should I trust the | Trust anchors and authorization     |
    |  author of the firmware? | policies on the device              |
    |    Has the firmware been | Digital signature and MAC covering  |
    |               corrupted? | the firmware image                  |
    | Does the firmware update | Conditions with Vendor ID, Class    |
    |    apply to this device? | ID, and Device ID                   |
    | Is the update older than | Sequence number in the manifest (1) |
    |     the active firmware? |                                     |
    |   When should the device | Wait directive                      |
    |        apply the update? |                                     |
    |    How should the device | Manifest commands                   |
    |        apply the update? |                                     |
    |    What kind of firmware | Unpack algorithms to interpret a    |
    |            binary is it? | format                              |
    |  Where should the update | Dependencies on other manifests and |
    |             be obtained? | firmware image URI in the manifest  |
    |         Where should the | Storage location and component      |
    |      firmware be stored? | identifier                          |

                Table 1: Example Firmware Update Decisions

   (1):  A device presented with an old but valid manifest and firmware
         must not be tricked into installing such firmware since a
         vulnerability in the old firmware image may allow an attacker
         to gain control of the device.

   Keeping the code size and complexity of a manifest parser small is
   important for constrained IoT devices.  Since the manifest parsing
   code may also be used by the bootloader, it can be part of the
   trusted computing base.

   A manifest may be used to protect not only firmware images but also
   configuration data such as network credentials or personalization
   data related to the firmware or software.  Personalization data
   demonstrates the need for confidentiality to be maintained between
   two or more stakeholders that deliver images to the same device.
   Personalization data is used with TEEs, which benefit from a protocol
   for managing the life cycle of TAs running inside a TEE.  TEEs may
   obtain TAs from different authors, and those TAs may require
   personalization data, such as payment information, to be securely
   conveyed to the TEE.  The TA's author does not want to expose the
   TA's code to any other stakeholder or third party.  The user does not
   want to expose the payment information to any other stakeholder or
   third party.

7.  Securing Firmware Updates

   Using firmware updates to fix vulnerabilities in devices is
   important, but securing this update mechanism is equally important
   since security problems are exacerbated by the update mechanism.  An
   update is essentially authorized remote code execution, so any
   security problems in the update process expose that remote code
   execution system.  Failure to secure the firmware update process will
   help attackers take control of devices.

   End-to-end security mechanisms are used to protect the firmware image
   and the manifest.  The following assumptions are made to allow the
   firmware consumer to verify the received firmware image and manifest
   before updating the software:

   *  Authentication ensures that the device can cryptographically
      identify the author(s) creating firmware images and manifests.
      Authenticated identities may be used as input to the authorization
      process.  Not all entities creating and signing manifests have the
      same permissions.  A device needs to determine whether the
      requested action is indeed covered by the permission of the party
      that signed the manifest.  Informing the device about the
      permissions of the different parties also happens in an out-of-
      band fashion and is a duty of the Trust Provisioning Authority.

   *  Integrity protection ensures that no third party can modify the
      manifest or the firmware image.  To accept an update, a device
      needs to verify the signature covering the manifest.  There may be
      one or multiple manifests that need to be validated, potentially
      signed by different parties.  The device needs to be in possession
      of the trust anchors to verify those signatures.  Installing trust
      anchors to devices via the Trust Provisioning Authority happens in
      an out-of-band fashion prior to the firmware update process.

   *  Confidentiality protection of the firmware image must be done in
      such a way that no one aside from the intended firmware
      consumer(s) and other authorized parties can decrypt it.  The
      information that is encrypted individually for each device/
      recipient must be done in a way that is usable with Content
      Distribution Networks (CDNs), bulk storage, and broadcast
      protocols.  For confidentiality protection of firmware images, the
      author needs to be in possession of the certificate/public key or
      a pre-shared key of a device.  The use of confidentiality
      protection of firmware images is optional.

   A manifest specification must support different cryptographic
   algorithms and algorithm extensibility.  Moreover, since signature
   schemes based on RSA and Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) may become
   vulnerable to quantum-accelerated key extraction in the future,
   unchangeable bootloader code in ROM is recommended to use post-
   quantum secure signature schemes such as hash-based signatures
   [RFC8778].  A bootloader author must carefully consider the service
   lifetime of their product and the time horizon for quantum-
   accelerated key extraction.  At the time of writing, the worst-case
   estimate for the time horizon to key extraction with quantum
   acceleration is approximately 2030, based on current research

   When a device obtains a monolithic firmware image from a single
   author without any additional approval steps, the authorization flow
   is relatively simple.  However, there are other cases where more
   complex policy decisions need to be made before updating a device.

   In this architecture, the authorization policy is separated from the
   underlying communication architecture.  This is accomplished by
   separating the entities from their permissions.  For example, an
   author may not have the authority to install a firmware image on a
   device in critical infrastructure without the authorization of a
   device operator.  In this case, the device may be programmed to
   reject firmware updates unless they are signed both by the firmware
   author and by the device operator.

   Alternatively, a device may trust precisely one entity that does all
   permission management and coordination.  This entity allows the
   device to offload complex permissions calculations for the device.

8.  Example

   Figure 2 illustrates an example message flow for distributing a
   firmware image to a device.  The firmware and manifest are stored on
   the same firmware server and distributed in a detached manner.

   +--------+    +-----------------+    +-----------------------------+
   |        |    | Firmware Server |    |         IoT Device          |
   | Author |    | Status Tracker  |    | +------------+ +----------+ |
   +--------+    | Server          |    | |  Firmware  | |Bootloader| |
     |           +-----------------+    | |  Consumer  | |          | |
     |                   |              | +------------+ +----------+ |
     |                   |              |      |                |     |
     |                   |              |  +-----------------------+  |
     | Create Firmware   |              |  | Status Tracker Client |  |
     |--------------+    |              |  +-----------------------+  |
     |              |    |               `''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
     |<-------------+    |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     | Upload Firmware   |                     |        |       |
     |------------------>|                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     | Create Manifest   |                     |        |       |
     |---------------+   |                     |        |       |
     |               |   |                     |        |       |
     |<--------------+   |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     | Sign Manifest     |                     |        |       |
     |-------------+     |                     |        |       |
     |             |     |                     |        |       |
     |<------------+     |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     | Upload Manifest   |                     |        |       |
     |------------------>|  Notification of    |        |       |
     |                   |  new firmware image |        |       |
     |                   |----------------------------->|       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     |Initiate|       |
     |                   |                     | Update |       |
     |                   |                     |<-------|       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     |                   |   Query Manifest    |        |       |
     |                   |<--------------------|        .       |
     |                   |                     |        .       |
     |                   |   Send Manifest     |        .       |
     |                   |-------------------->|        .       |
     |                   |                     | Validate       |
     |                   |                     | Manifest       |
     |                   |                     |--------+       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     |<-------+       |
     |                   |                     |        .       |
     |                   |  Request Firmware   |        .       |
     |                   |<--------------------|        .       |
     |                   |                     |        .       |
     |                   | Send Firmware       |        .       |
     |                   |-------------------->|        .       |
     |                   |                     | Verify .       |
     |                   |                     | Firmware       |
     |                   |                     |--------+       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     |<-------+       |
     |                   |                     |        .       |
     |                   |                     | Store  .       |
     |                   |                     | Firmware       |
     |                   |                     |--------+       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     |<-------+       |
     |                   |                     |        .       |
     |                   |                     |        .       |
     |                   |                     |        .       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     | Update |       |
     |                   |                     |Complete|       |
     |                   |                     |------->|       |
     |                   |                              |       |
     |                   |  Firmware Update Completed   |       |
     |                   |<-----------------------------|       |
     |                   |                              |       |
     |                   |  Reboot                      |       |
     |                   |----------------------------->|       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     |        |Reboot |
     |                   |                     |        |------>|
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     |        .       |
     |                   |                 +---+----------------+--+
     |                   |                S|   |                |  |
     |                   |                E|   | Verify         |  |
     |                   |                C|   | Firmware       |  |
     |                   |                U|   | +--------------|  |
     |                   |                R|   | |              |  |
     |                   |                E|   | +------------->|  |
     |                   |                 |   |                |  |
     |                   |                B|   | Activate new   |  |
     |                   |                O|   | Firmware       |  |
     |                   |                O|   | +--------------|  |
     |                   |                T|   | |              |  |
     |                   |                 |   | +------------->|  |
     |                   |                P|   |                |  |
     |                   |                R|   | Boot new       |  |
     |                   |                O|   | Firmware       |  |
     |                   |                C|   | +--------------|  |
     |                   |                E|   | |              |  |
     |                   |                S|   | +------------->|  |
     |                   |                S|   |                |  |
     |                   |                 +---+----------------+--+
     |                   |                     |        .       |
     |                   |                     |        |       |
     |                   |                     .        |       |
     |                   |  Device running new firmware |       |
     |                   |<-----------------------------|       |
     |                   |                     .        |       |
     |                   |                              |       |

             Figure 2: First Example Flow for a Firmware Update

   Figure 3 shows an exchange that starts with the status tracker
   querying the device for its current firmware version.  Later, a new
   firmware version becomes available, and since this device is running
   an older version, the status tracker server interacts with the device
   to initiate an update.

   The manifest and the firmware are stored on different servers in this
   example.  When the device processes the manifest, it learns where to
   download the new firmware version.  The firmware consumer downloads
   the firmware image with the newer version X.Y.Z after successful
   validation of the manifest.  Subsequently, a reboot is initiated, and
   the secure boot process starts.  Finally, the device reports the
   successful boot of the new firmware version.

    +---------+   +-----------------+    +-----------------------------+
    | Status  |   | Firmware Server |    | +------------+ +----------+ |
    | Tracker |   | Status Tracker  |    | |  Firmware  | |Bootloader| |
    | Server  |   | Server          |    | |  Consumer  | |          | |
    +---------+   +-----------------+    | |  +Status   | +----------+ |
         |                |              | |  Tracker   |        |     |
         |                |              | |  Client    |        |     |
         |                |              | +------------+        |     |
         |                |              |      |  IoT Device    |     |
         |                |               `''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
         |                |                     |                |
         |        Query Firmware Version        |                |
         |------------------------------------->|                |
         |        Firmware Version A.B.C        |                |
         |<-------------------------------------|                |
         |                |                     |                |
         |         <<some time later>>          |                |
         |                |                     |                |
       _,...._         _,...._                  |                |
     ,'       `.     ,'       `.                |                |
    |   New     |   |   New     |               |                |
    \ Manifest  /   \ Firmware  /               |                |
     `.._   _,,'     `.._   _,,'                |                |
         `''             `''                    |                |
         |            Push manifest             |                |
         |----------------+-------------------->|                |
         |                |                     |                |
         |                '                     |                '
         |                |                     | Validate       |
         |                |                     | Manifest       |
         |                |                     |---------+      |
         |                |                     |         |      |
         |                |                     |<--------+      |
         |                | Request firmware    |                |
         |                | X.Y.Z               |                |
         |                |<--------------------|                |
         |                |                     |                |
         |                | Firmware X.Y.Z      |                |
         |                |-------------------->|                |
         |                |                     |                |
         |                |                     | Verify         |
         |                |                     | Firmware       |
         |                |                     |--------------+ |
         |                |                     |              | |
         |                |                     |<-------------+ |
         |                |                     |                |
         |                |                     | Store          |
         |                |                     | Firmware       |
         |                |                     |-------------+  |
         |                |                     |             |  |
         |                |                     |<------------+  |
         |                |                     |                |
         |                |                     |                |
         |                |                     | Trigger Reboot |
         |                |                     |--------------->|
         |                |                     |                |
         |                |                     |                |
         |                |                     | __..-------..._'
         |                |                    ,-'               `-.
         |                |                   |      Secure Boot    |
         |                |                   `-.                 _/
         |                |                     |`--..._____,,.,-'
         |                |                     |                |
         | Device running firmware X.Y.Z        |                |
         |<-------------------------------------|                |
         |                |                     |                |
         |                |                     |                |

            Figure 3: Second Example Flow for a Firmware Update

9.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no IANA actions.

10.  Security Considerations

   This document describes the terminology, requirements, and an
   architecture for firmware updates of IoT devices.  The content of the
   document is thereby focused on improving the security of IoT devices
   via firmware update mechanisms and informs the standardization of a
   manifest format.

   An in-depth examination of the security considerations of the
   architecture is presented in [SUIT-INFO-MODEL].

11.  Informative References

   [LwM2M]    Open Mobile Alliance, "Lightweight Machine to Machine
              Technical Specification", Version 1.0.2, February 2018,

              Jiang, S., Britt, K.A., McCaskey, A.J., Humble, T.S., and
              S. Kais, "Quantum Annealing for Prime Factorization",
              Scientific Reports 8, December 2018,

              Birkholz, H., Thaler, D., Richardson, M., Smith, N., and
              W. Pan, "Remote Attestation Procedures Architecture", Work
              in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-rats-architecture-
              12, 23 April 2021, <https://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-

   [RFC6024]  Reddy, R. and C. Wallace, "Trust Anchor Management
              Requirements", RFC 6024, DOI 10.17487/RFC6024, October
              2010, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc6024>.

   [RFC6763]  Cheshire, S. and M. Krochmal, "DNS-Based Service
              Discovery", RFC 6763, DOI 10.17487/RFC6763, February 2013,

   [RFC7228]  Bormann, C., Ersue, M., and A. Keranen, "Terminology for
              Constrained-Node Networks", RFC 7228,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7228, May 2014,

   [RFC8240]  Tschofenig, H. and S. Farrell, "Report from the Internet
              of Things Software Update (IoTSU) Workshop 2016",
              RFC 8240, DOI 10.17487/RFC8240, September 2017,

   [RFC8778]  Housley, R., "Use of the HSS/LMS Hash-Based Signature
              Algorithm with CBOR Object Signing and Encryption (COSE)",
              RFC 8778, DOI 10.17487/RFC8778, April 2020,

              Moran, B., Tschofenig, H., and H. Birkholz, "A Manifest
              Information Model for Firmware Updates in IoT Devices",
              Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-suit-
              information-model-11, 6 April 2021,

              Moran, B., Tschofenig, H., Birkholz, H., and K. Zandberg,
              "A Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR)-based
              Serialization Format for the Software Updates for Internet
              of Things (SUIT) Manifest", Work in Progress, Internet-
              Draft, draft-ietf-suit-manifest-12, 22 February 2021,

              Pei, M., Tschofenig, H., Thaler, D., and D. Wheeler,
              "Trusted Execution Environment Provisioning (TEEP)
              Architecture", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-
              ietf-teep-architecture-14, 22 February 2021,


   We would like to thank the following individuals for their feedback:

   *  Geraint Luff
   *  Amyas Phillips
   *  Dan Ros
   *  Thomas Eichinger
   *  Michael Richardson
   *  Emmanuel Baccelli
   *  Ned Smith
   *  Jim Schaad
   *  Carsten Bormann
   *  Cullen Jennings
   *  Olaf Bergmann
   *  Suhas Nandakumar
   *  Phillip Hallam-Baker
   *  Marti Bolivar
   *  Andrzej Puzdrowski
   *  Markus Gueller
   *  Henk Birkholz
   *  Jintao Zhu
   *  Takeshi Takahashi
   *  Jacob Beningo
   *  Kathleen Moriarty
   *  Bob Briscoe
   *  Roman Danyliw
   *  Brian Carpenter
   *  Theresa Enghardt
   *  Rich Salz
   *  Mohit Sethi
   *  √Čric Vyncke
   *  Alvaro Retana
   *  Barry Leiba
   *  Benjamin Kaduk
   *  Martin Duke
   *  Robert Wilton

   We would also like to thank the WG chairs, Russ Housley, David
   Waltermire, and Dave Thaler for their support and review.

Authors' Addresses

   Brendan Moran
   Arm Limited

   Email: Brendan.Moran@arm.com

   Hannes Tschofenig
   Arm Limited

   Email: hannes.tschofenig@arm.com

   David Brown

   Email: david.brown@linaro.org

   Milosch Meriac

   Email: milosch@meriac.com
  1. RFC 9019