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Home arrow Computer Science arrow A Practical Guide to TPM 2.0


Deprovisioning is primarily the process of removing secrets from the TPM, although a user may wish to remove public but unique data as well. A user typically deprovisions before surplusing a platform in an enterprise, selling used equipment, or scrapping the system.

What secrets aren't touched? Those in the platform hierarchy (if any) are controlled by the platform manufacturer. The endorsement hierarchy primary seed is typically fixed for the lifetime of the TPM. Changing this seed would invalidate endorsement primary keys and thus make their certificates useless.

A platform OEM may be tempted to use NV space to store end-user settings. For example, consider the BIOS configuration. Such an index could have a policy permitting the end user to write a value and anyone (specifically, the BIOS) to read it. Such use is discouraged if any value is even remotely secret or privacy sensitive, because end-user deprovisioning is easy to overlook.

Deprovisioning uses the TPM2_Clear command. Note that the authorization for this command is not, as you may expect, TPM_RH_OWNER, the role that controls the storage hierarchy. Rather, it's either TPM_RH_LOCKOUT (the dictionary-attack reset authorization) or TPM_RH_PLATFORM (platform authorization).

Lockout authorization is a reasonable choice. It's likely that the user knows this authorization. The TPM probably uses this value rather than owner authorization because, in some situations, the owner authorization may be more widely known. Because deprovisioning has wide-ranging effects, it's better to assign it to a more restrictive role.

Platform authorization is trickier, because it's available only early in the boot cycle, not at the OS level. This poses two problems. First, none but the most tech-savvy users can be expected to do any operation at the BIOS-screen level. Second, BIOS screens preclude remote deprovisioning, which is a requirement for cloud-type data centers. The solution to this dilemma is a platform policy, the alternative to a simple platform HMAC or password-based authorization. For example, suppose the platform owner wishes to allow a user to run the TPM2_Clear command with owner authorization. A platform policy includes an OR term that says, “command code = TPM2_Clear AND Policy Secret's handle == TPM_RH_OWNER”. This policy permits owner authorization to be used, and the user can apply this authorization at the OS level.

What does TPM2_Clear do? Quite a lot. First, shProof and ehProof are changed. These proofs serve as HMAC keys for saved (nonresident) contexts. Once the proof changes, contexts in the storage and endorsement hierarchies can no longer be loaded. Next, any TPM-resident objects in either the storage or platform hierarchy are flushed. The storage primary seed is changed; this prevents primary storage keys from being regenerated, and thus, any object created under these keys can no longer be loaded.

Finally, any NV index created by the owner is deleted. This is an improvement over TPM 1.2, where some indexes have to be individually deleted.

TPM2_Clear also prepares the TPM for the next owner. It resets authorization values. The lockout authorization is cleared (to a zero-length password), and the policy is cleared (to no policy in effect). The owner and endorsement authorization and policy are similarly reset. The storage and endorsement hierarchies are enabled; this is a departure from TPM 1.2, which required a reboot after an owner clear before a new owner could be installed.

The dictionary-attack mechanism count of failed authorization tries is reset.

The clock is reset so that the new owner can accurately set it as desired. (The clock can't normally go back in time.) Reset count and restart count, which track boot cycles, are reset.


There are three startup cases, roughly corresponding to a PC cold boot, resume from suspend, and power up after hibernate. The TPM provides startup commands to reset or restore its state as appropriate for these cases.

So that startup authorization secrets need not be saved in the clear off the TPM or be accessible during boot, the TPM resets certain values and expects them to be provisioned during startup. Before it reaches the end user, the TPM may be provisioned with keys and certificates. These include TPM manufacturer-provisioned endorsement primary keys and corresponding certificates, and perhaps another set created by the platform manufacturer. The end-user provisioning steps include initialization of the storage hierarchy and installing endorsement and storage hierarchy authorization keys or policies.

Finally, deprovisioning through TPM2_Clear removes secrets and NV-defined indexes, resets authorizations and policies, and resets other values in preparation for the new owner.

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