UEFI Secure Boot on AL2023 - Amazon Linux 2023

UEFI Secure Boot on AL2023

AL2023 supports UEFI Secure Boot starting with release 2023.1. You must use AL2023 with Amazon EC2 instances that support both UEFI and UEFI Secure Boot. For more information, see Launch an instance in the Amazon EC2 User Guide.

AL2023 instances with UEFI Secure Boot enabled accept only kernel level code, including the Linux kernel as well as modules, that are signed by Amazon so you can ensure that your instance only runs kernel level codes signed by AWS.

For more information about Amazon EC2 instances and UEFI Secure Boot, see UEFI Secure Boot in the Amazon EC2 User Guide.

  • You must be using an AMI with AL2023 release 2023.1 or higher.

  • The instance type must support UEFI Secure Boot. For more information, see Launch an instance in the Amazon EC2 User Guide.

Enable UEFI Secure Boot on AL2023

Standard AL2023 AMIs incorporate a bootloader and a kernel signed by our keys. You can enable UEFI Secure Boot either by enrolling existing instances or creating AMIs with UEFI Secure Boot pre-enabled by registering an image from a snapshot. UEFI Secure Boot isn't enabled by default on the standard AL2023 AMIs.

The boot mode of AL2023 AMIs is set to uefi-preferred which ensures that instances launched with these AMIs will use the UEFI firmware, if the instance type supports UEFI. If the instance type doesn't support UEFI, the instance is launched with Legacy BIOS firmware. When an instance launches in Legacy BIOS mode, UEFI Secure Boot isn't enforced.

For more information about AMI boot modes on Amazon EC2 instances, see Boot modes in the Amazon EC2 User Guide.

Enrollment of an existing instance

To enroll an existing instance, populate the specific UEFI firmware variables with a set of keys that enable the firmware to verify the bootloader and the bootloader to verify the kernel on the next boot.

  1. Amazon Linux provides a tool to simplify the enrollment process. Run the following command to provision the instance with the necessary set of keys and certificates.

    sudo amazon-linux-sb enroll
  2. Run the following command to reboot the instance. After the instance is rebooted, UEFI Secure Boot will be enabled.

    sudo reboot

Amazon Linux AMIs currently don't support Nitro Trusted Platform Module (NitroTPM). If you need NitroTPM in addition to UEFI Secure Boot, use the information in the following section.

Register image from snapshot

When registering an AMI from a snapshot of an Amazon EBS root volume using the Amazon EC2 register-image API, you can provision the AMI with a binary blob that contains the state of the UEFI variable store. By providing the AL2023 UefiData, you enable UEFI Secure Boot and don't need to follow the steps in the previous section.

For more information about creating and using a binary blob, see Option B: Create a binary blob containing a pre-filled variable store in the Amazon EC2 User Guide.

AL2023 provides a pre-built binary blob that can be used directly on Amazon EC2 instances. The binary blob is located in /usr/share/amazon-linux-sb-keys/uefi.vars on an running instance. This blob is provided by the amazon-linux-sb-keys RPM package which is installed by default on AL2023 AMIs starting with release 2023.1.


To ensure that you are using the latest version of keys and revocations, use the blob from the same release of AL2023 that you use to create the AMI.

When registering an image, we recommend using the BootMode parameter of the RegisterImage API set to uefi. This allows you to enable NitroTPM by setting the TpmSupport parameter to v2.0. Also, setting BootMode to uefi ensures that UEFI Secure Boot is enabled and can't be disabled by accident when switching to an instance type that doesn't support UEFI.

For more information about NitroTPM, see NitroTPM in the Amazon EC2 User Guide.

Revocation updates

It may be necessary for Amazon Linux to distribute a new version of the bootloader grub2 or the Linux kernel signed with updated keys. In that case, the old key may need to be revoked to prevent the chance of allowing exploitable bugs from previous versions of the bootloader to bypass the UEFI Secure Boot verification process.

Package updates to the grub2or kernel packages always automatically update the list of revocations into the UEFI variable store of the running instance. This means that with UEFI Secure Boot enabled, you can no longer run the old version of a package after installing a security update for the package.

How UEFI Secure Boot works on AL2023

Unlike other Linux distributions, Amazon Linux doesn’t provide an additional component, called a shim, to act as the first stage bootloader. The shim is generally signed with Microsoft keys. For example, on Linux distributions with the shim, the shim loads the grub2 bootloader which uses the shim’s own code to verify the Linux kernel. Additionally, the shim maintains its own set of keys and revocations in the Machine Owner Key (MOK) database located in the UEFI variable store and controlled with the mokutil tool.

Amazon Linux doesn’t provide a shim. Because the AMI owner controls the UEFI variables, this intermediary step isn't needed and would adversely affect launch and boot times. Also, we chose not to include trust to any vendor keys by default, to reduce the chance that undesired binaries could get executed. As always, customers can include binaries if they chose to do so.

With Amazon Linux, UEFI directly loads and verifies our grub2 bootloader. The grub2 bootloader was modified to use UEFI to verify the Linux kernel after loading it. Thus, the Linux Kernel is verified using the same certificates stored in the normal UEFI db variable (authorized key database) and tested against the same dbx variable (revocations database) as the bootloader and other UEFI binaries. Because we provide our own PK and KEK keys, which control access to the db database and the dbx database, we can distribute signed updates and revocations as needed without an intermediary such as the shim.

For more information about UEFI Secure Boot, see How UEFI Secure Boot works in the Amazon EC2 User Guide.

Enrolling your own keys

As documented in the previous section, Amazon Linux does not require a shim for UEFI Secure Boot on Amazon EC2. When you're reading documentation for other Linux distributions, you may find documentation for managing the Machine Owner Key (MOK) database using mokutil, which is not present on AL2023. The shim and MOK environments work around some limitations of key enrollment in UEFI Firmware that aren't applicable to how Amazon EC2 implements UEFI Secure Boot. With Amazon EC2 there are mechanisms to easily directly manipulate the keys in the UEFI variable store.

If you want to enroll your own keys, you can do so either manipulate the variable store within an existing instance (see Add keys to the variable store from within the instance) or construct a binary blob that's prefilled (see Create a binary blob containing a pre-filled variable store).