Porting the corePKCS11 library - FreeRTOS

Porting the corePKCS11 library

The Public Key Cryptography Standard #11 defines a platform-independent API to manage and use cryptographic tokens. PKCS 11 refers to the standard and the APIs defined by it. The PKCS #11 cryptographic API abstracts key storage, get/set properties for cryptographic objects, and session semantics. It's widely used for manipulating common cryptographic objects. Its functions allow application software to use, create, modify, and delete cryptographic objects, without exposing those objects to the application's memory.

FreeRTOS libraries and reference integrations use a subset of the PCKS #11 interface standard, with a focus on the operations involving asymmetric keys, random number generation, and hashing. The below table lists the use cases and required PKCS #11 APIs to support.

Use Cases
Use Case Required PKCS #11 API Family
All Initialize, Finalize, Open/Close Session, GetSlotList, Login
Provisioning GenerateKeyPair, CreateObject, DestroyObject, InitToken, GetTokenInfo
TLS Random, Sign, FindObject, GetAttributeValue
FreeRTOS+TCP Random, Digest
OTA Verify, Digest, FindObject, GetAttributeValue

When to implement a complete PKCS #11 module

Storing private keys in general-purpose flash memory can be convenient in evaluation and rapid prototyping scenarios. We recommend you use dedicated cryptographic hardware to reduce the threats of data theft and device duplication in production scenarios. Cryptographic hardware includes components with features that prevent cryptographic secret keys from being exported. To support this, you will have to implement a subset of PKCS #11 required to work with FreeRTOS libraries as defined in the above table.

When to use FreeRTOS corePKCS11

The corePKCS11 library contains a software-based implementation of the PKCS #11 interface (API) that uses the cryptographic functionality provided by Mbed TLS. This is provided for rapid prototyping and evaluation scenarios where the hardware does not have a dedicated cryptographic hardware. In this case, you only have to implement corePKCS11 PAL to make the corePKCS11 software-based implementation to work with your hardware platform.

Porting corePKCS11

You will have to have implementations to read and write cryptographic objects to non-volatile memory (NVM), such as on-board flash memory. Cryptographic objects must be stored in a section of NVM that is not initialized and is not erased on device reprogramming. Users of the corePKCS11 library will provision devices with credentials, and then reprogram the device with a new application that accesses these credentials through the corePKCS11 interface. The corePKCS11 PAL ports must provide a location to store:

  • The device client certificate

  • The device client private key

  • The device client public key

  • A trusted root CA

  • A code-verification public key (or a certificate that contains the code-verification public key) for secure boot-loader and over-the-air (OTA) updates

  • A Just-In-Time provisioning certificate

Include the header file and implement the PAL APIs defined.

Function Description

Initializes the PAL layer. Called by the corePKCS11 library at the start of its initialization sequence.


Writes data to non-volatile storage.


Uses a PKCS #11 CKA_LABEL to search for a corresponding PKCS #11 object in non-volatile storage, and returns that object’s handle, if it exists.


Retrieves the value of an object, given the handle.


Cleanup for the PKCS11_PAL_GetObjectValue call. Can be used to free memory allocated in a PKCS11_PAL_GetObjectValue call.


If you use the FreeRTOS corePKCS11 library or implement the required subset of PKCS11 APIs, you must pass FreeRTOS PKCS11 tests. These test if the required functions for FreeRTOS libraries perform as expected.

This section also describes how you can locally run the FreeRTOS PKCS11 tests with the qualification tests.


To set up the FreeRTOS PKCS11 tests, the following has to be implemented.

  • A supported port of PKCS11 APIs.

  • An implementation of FreeRTOS qualification tests platform functions which include the following:

    • FRTest_ThreadCreate

    • FRTest_ThreadTimedJoin

    • FRTest_MemoryAlloc

    • FRTest_MemoryFree

Porting tests

  • Add FreeRTOS-Libraries-Integration-Tests as a submodule into your project. The submodule can be placed in any directory of the project, as long as it can be built.

  • Copy config_template/test_execution_config_template.h and config_template/test_param_config_template.h to a project location in the build path, and rename them to test_execution_config.h and test_param_config.h.

  • Include relevant files into the build system. If using CMake, qualification_test.cmake and src/pkcs11_tests.cmake can be used to include relevant files.

  • Implement UNITY_OUTPUT_CHAR so that test output logs and device logs do not interleave.

  • Integrate the MbedTLS, which verifies the cryptoki operation result.

  • Call RunQualificationTest() from the application.

Configuring tests

The PKCS11 test suite must be configured according to the PKCS11 implementation. The following table lists the configuration required by PKCS11 tests in the test_param_config.h header file.

PKSC11 test configurations
Configuration Description

The porting supports RSA key functions.


The porting supports EC key functions.


The porting supports the import of the private key. RSA and EC key import are validated in the test if the supporting key functions are enabled.


The porting supports keypair generation. EC keypair generation is validated in the test if the supporting key functions are enabled.


The porting has pre-provisioned credentials. PKCS11_TEST_LABEL_DEVICE_PRIVATE_KEY_FOR_TLS, PKCS11_TEST_LABEL_DEVICE_PUBLIC_KEY_FOR_TLS and PKCS11_TEST_LABEL_DEVICE_CERTIFICATE_FOR_TLS, are examples of the credentials.


The label of the private key used in the test.


The label of the public key used in the test.


The label of the certificate used in the test.


The porting supports storage for JITP. Set this to 1 to enable the JITP codeverify test.


The label of the code verification key used in JITP codeverify test.


The label of the JITP certificate used in JITP codeverify test.


The label of the root certificate used in JITP codeverify test.

FreeRTOS libraries and reference integrations must support a minimum of one key function configuration like RSA or Elliptic curve keys, and one key provisioning mechanism supported by the PKCS11 APIs. The test must enable the following configurations:

  • At least one of the following key function configurations:



  • At least one of the following key provisioning configurations:




The pre-provisioned device credential test must run under the following conditions:

  • PKCS11_TEST_PREPROVISIONED_SUPPORT must be enabled and other provisioning mechanisms disabled.

  • Only one key function, either PKCS11_TEST_RSA_KEY_SUPPORT or PKCS11_TEST_EC_KEY_SUPPORT, is enabled.

  • Set up the pre-provisioned key labels according to your key function, including PKCS11_TEST_LABEL_DEVICE_PRIVATE_KEY_FOR_TLS, PKCS11_TEST_LABEL_DEVICE_PUBLIC_KEY_FOR_TLS and PKCS11_TEST_LABEL_DEVICE_CERTIFICATE_FOR_TLS. These credentials must exist before running the test.

The test may need to run several times with different configurations, if the implementation supports pre-provisioned credentials and other provisioning mechanisms.



Running tests

This section describes how you can locally test the PKCS11 interface with the qualification tests. Alternatively, you can also use IDT to automate the execution. See AWS IoT Device Tester for FreeRTOS in the FreeRTOS User Guide for details.

The following instructions describe how to run the tests:

  • Open test_execution_config.h and define CORE_PKCS11_TEST_ENABLED to 1.

  • Build and flash the application to your device to run. The test result are output to the serial port.

The following is an example of the output test result.

TEST(Full_PKCS11_StartFinish, PKCS11_StartFinish_FirstTest) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_StartFinish, PKCS11_GetFunctionList) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_StartFinish, PKCS11_InitializeFinalize) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_StartFinish, PKCS11_GetSlotList) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_StartFinish, PKCS11_OpenSessionCloseSession) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_Capabilities, PKCS11_Capabilities) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_NoObject, PKCS11_Digest) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_NoObject, PKCS11_Digest_ErrorConditions) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_NoObject, PKCS11_GenerateRandom) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_NoObject, PKCS11_GenerateRandomMultiThread) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_RSA, PKCS11_RSA_CreateObject) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_RSA, PKCS11_RSA_FindObject) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_RSA, PKCS11_RSA_GetAttributeValue) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_RSA, PKCS11_RSA_Sign) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_RSA, PKCS11_RSA_FindObjectMultiThread) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_RSA, PKCS11_RSA_GetAttributeValueMultiThread) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_RSA, PKCS11_RSA_DestroyObject) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_EC, PKCS11_EC_GenerateKeyPair) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_EC, PKCS11_EC_CreateObject) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_EC, PKCS11_EC_FindObject) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_EC, PKCS11_EC_GetAttributeValue) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_EC, PKCS11_EC_Sign) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_EC, PKCS11_EC_Verify) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_EC, PKCS11_EC_FindObjectMultiThread) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_EC, PKCS11_EC_GetAttributeValueMultiThread) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_EC, PKCS11_EC_SignVerifyMultiThread) PASS TEST(Full_PKCS11_EC, PKCS11_EC_DestroyObject) PASS ----------------------- 27 Tests 0 Failures 0 Ignored OK

Testing is complete when all tests pass.


To officially qualify a device for FreeRTOS, you must validate the device's ported source code with AWS IoT Device Tester. Follow the instructions in Using AWS IoT Device Tester for FreeRTOS in the FreeRTOS User Guide to set up AWS IoT Device Tester for port validation. To test a specific library's port, the correct test group must be enabled in the device.json file in the AWS IoT Device Tester configs folder.