TPM (Trusted Platform Module)

Trusted Platform Module (TPM, also known as ISO/IEC 11889) is an international standard for a secure cryptoprocessor, a dedicated microcontroller designed to secure hardware through integrated cryptographic keys.

History of TPM

Trusted Platform Module (TPM) was conceived by a computer industry consortium called Trusted Computing Group (TCG), and was standardized by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in 2009 as ISO/IEC 11889.

TCG continued to revise the TPM specifications. The last revised edition of TPM Main Specification Version 1.2 was published on March 3, 2011. It consisted of three parts, based on their purpose. For the second major version of TPM, however, TCG released TPM Library Specification 2.0, which builds upon the previously published TPM Main Specification. Its latest edition was released on September 29, 2016, with several errata with the latest one being dated on January 8, 2018.


Trusted Platform Module provides:

  • A random number generator
  • Facilities for the secure generation of cryptographic keys for limited uses.
  • Remote attestation: Creates a nearly unforgeable hash key summary of the hardware and software configuration. The software in charge of hashing the configuration data determines the extent of the summary. This allows a third party to verify that the software has not been changed.
  • Binding: Encrypts data using the TPM bind key, a unique RSA key descended from a storage key.
  • Sealing: Similar to binding, but in addition, specifies the TPM state for the data to be decrypted (unsealed).

TPM Implementations

Starting in 2006, many new laptops have been sold with a built-in TPM chip. In the future, this concept could be co-located on an existing motherboard chip in computers, or any other device where the TPM facilities could be employed, such as a cellphone. On a PC, either the LPC bus or the SPI bus is used to connect to the TPM chip.

TCG has certified TPM chips manufactured by Infineon Technologies, Nuvoton, and STMicroelectronics, having assigned TPM vendor IDs to Advanced Micro Devices, Atmel, Broadcom, IBM, Infineon, Intel, Lenovo, National Semiconductor, Nationz Technologies, Nuvoton, Qualcomm, Rockchip, Standard Microsystems Corporation, STMicroelectronics, Samsung, Sinosun, Texas Instruments, and Winbond.

There are five different types of TPM 2.0 implementations:

  • Discrete TPMs are dedicated chips that implement TPM functionality in their own tamper resistant semiconductor package. They are theoretically the most secure type of TPM because the routines implemented in hardware should be more resistant to bugs versus routines implemented in software, and their packages are required to implement some tamper resistance.
  • Integrated TPMs are part of another chip. While they use hardware that resists software bugs, they are not required to implement tamper resistance. Intel has integrated TPMs in some of its chipsets.
  • Firmware TPMs are software-only solutions that run in a CPU’s trusted execution environment. Since these TPMs are entirely software solutions that run in trusted execution environments, these TPMs are more likely to be vulnerable to software bugs. AMD, Intel and Qualcomm have implemented firmware TPMs.
  • Software TPMs are software emulators of TPMs that run with no more protection than a regular program gets within an operating system. They depend entirely on the environment that they run in, so they provide no more security than what can be provided by the normal execution environment, and they are vulnerable to their own software bugs and attacks that are penetrating the normal execution environment. They are useful for development purposes.
  • Virtual TPMs are provided by a hypervisor. Therefore, they rely on the hypervisor to provide them with an isolated execution environment that is hidden from the software running inside virtual machines to secure their code from the software in the virtual machines. They can provide a security level comparable to a firmware TPM.
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