Amazon FreeRTOS
User Guide

Public Key Cryptography Standard #11

Public Key Cryptography Standard #11 (PKCS#11) is a cryptographic API that abstracts key storage, get/set properties for cryptographic objects, and session semantics. See pkcs11.h (obtained from OASIS, the standard body) in the Amazon FreeRTOS source code repository. In the Amazon FreeRTOS reference implementation, PKCS#11 API calls are made by the TLS helper interface in order to perform TLS client authentication during SOCKETS_Connect. PKCS#11 API calls are also made by our one-time developer provisioning workflow to import a TLS client certificate and private key for authentication to the AWS IoT MQTT broker. Those two use cases, provisioning and TLS client authentication, require implementation of only a small subset of the PKCS#11 interface standard.

The following subset of PKCS#11 is used. This list is in roughly the order in which the routines are called in support of provisioning, TLS client authentication, and cleanup. For detailed descriptions of the functions, see the PKCS#11 documentation provided by the standard committee.

Provisioning API

  • C_GetFunctionList

  • C_Initialize

  • C_CreateObject CKO_PRIVATE_KEY



  • C_DestroyObject

Client Authentication

  • C_Initialize

  • C_GetSlotList

  • C_OpenSession

  • C_FindObjectsInit

  • C_FindObjects

  • C_FindObjectsFinal

  • C_GetAttributeValue

  • C_FindObjectsInit

  • C_FindObjects

  • C_FindObjectsFinal

  • C_GetAttributeValue

  • C_GenerateRandom

  • C_SignInit

  • C_Sign


  • C_CloseSession

  • C_Finalize

Asymmetric Cryptosystem Support

The Amazon FreeRTOS PKCS#11 reference implementation supports 2048-bit RSA (signing only) as well as ECDSA with the NIST P-256 curve. The following instructions describe how to create an AWS IoT thing based on a P-256 client certificate.

Make sure you are using the following (or more recent) versions of the AWS CLI and OpenSSL:

aws --version aws-cli/1.11.176 Python/2.7.9 Windows/8 botocore/1.7.34 openssl version OpenSSL 1.0.2g 1 Mar 2016

The following steps are written with the assumption that you have used the aws configure command to configure the AWS CLI.

Creating an AWS IoT thing based on a P-256 client certificate

  1. Run aws iot create-thing --thing-name dcgecc to create an AWS IoT thing.

  2. Run openssl genpkey -algorithm EC -pkeyopt ec_paramgen_curve:P-256 -pkeyopt ec_param_enc:named_curve -outform PEM -out dcgecc.key to use OpenSSL to create a P-256 key.

  3. Run openssl req -new -nodes -days 365 -key dcgecc.key -out dcgecc.req to create a certificate enrollment request signed by the key created in step 2.

  4. Run aws iot create-certificate-from-csr --certificate-signing-request file://dcgecc.req --set-as-active --certificate-pem-outfile dcgecc.crt to submit the certificate enrollment request to AWS IoT.

  5. Run aws iot attach-thing-principal --thing-name dcgecc --principal "arn:aws:iot:us-east-1:123456789012:cert/86e41339a6d1bbc67abf31faf455092cdebf8f21ffbc67c4d238d1326c7de729" to attach the certificate (referenced by the ARN output by the previous command) to the thing.

  6. Run aws iot create-policy --policy-name FullControl --policy-document file://policy.json to create a policy. (This policy is too permissive and should be used for development purposes only.)

    The following is a listing of the policy.json file specified in the create-policy command. You can omit the greengrass:* action if you don't want to run the Amazon FreeRTOS demo for Greengrass connectivity and discovery.

    { "Version": "2012-10-17", "Statement": [{ "Effect": "Allow", "Action": "iot:*", "Resource": "*" }, { "Effect": "Allow", "Action": "greengrass:*", "Resource": "*" }] }
  7. Run aws iot attach-principal-policy --policy-name FullControl --principal "arn:aws:iot:us-east-1:785484208847:cert/86e41339a6d1bbc67abf31faf455092cdebf8f21ffbc67c4d238d1326c7de729" to attach the principal (certificate) and policy to the thing.

Now, follow the steps in the AWS IoT Getting Started section of this guide. Don’t forget to copy the certificate and private key you created into your aws_clientcredential_keys.h file. Copy your thing name into aws_clientcredential.h.