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Common Bugs

Now that we've discussed debugging techniques for TPM 2.0 programs, we'll briefly describe some of the common bug areas. Again, keep in mind that these are all based on our experience with fairly low-level programming. These bugs are the types of issues that low-level TPM 2.0 programmers are likely to encounter. These bugs fall into the following categories: endianness, marshalling/unmarshalling errors, bad parameters (including the scheme errors mentioned earlier), and authorization errors.

When programming on a little-endian system such as an x86 system, endianness has to be properly altered during marshalling and marshalling of data. This is a very common source of errors, and it can typically be spotted by a careful analysis of the TPM trace data.

Marshalling and unmarshalling errors are closely related to endianness errors and in a similar manner can be easily debugged by looking at the trace data. This requires understanding the details of the TPM 2.0 specification, specifically Parts 2 and 3.

Bad parameters, including bad fields in schemes, are sometimes harder to spot.

They require a very detailed understanding of all three parts of the TPM 2.0 specification in order to diagnose from the trace data. For this reason, debugging these often requires stepping into the simulator.

The last category of errors—authorization errors, whether HMAC or policy— requires a detailed analysis of the whole software stack that was used to generate the authorization. As mentioned earlier, this can be accelerated by enhanced trace messages that display the inputs and outputs to all the operations leading up to the command being authorized.

Debugging High-level Applications

Debugging applications, specifically those using the Feature API of the TSS, requires a different approach than debugging low-level software such as the TSS itself. This is because the expected errors are different. An application developer using a TSS shouldn't have to deal with bugs caused by parameter marshalling or unmarshalling, command and response packet parsing, and malformed byte stream errors. The reason is simple: the TSS libraries already perform those steps. Thus there should hopefully be no need to trace or decompose the command and response byte streams.

Our experience with TPM 1.2 applications—which we expect to carry forward to TPM 2.0—suggests that you should begin with the simulator. And we don't mean, “begin with the simulator after you hit a bug,” but rather, start your developing using the simulator instead of a hardware TPM device. This approach offers several advantages:

• At least initially, hardware TPM 2.0 platforms may be scarce. The simulator is always available.

• A simulator should be faster than a hardware TPM, which is important when you start running regression tests. This becomes apparent when a test loop may generate a large number of RSA keys, or when NV space is rapidly written and a hardware TPM would throttle the writes to prevent wear-out.

• The simulator and TSS connect through a TCP/IP socket interface. This permits you to develop an application on one operating system (that might not yet have a TPM driver) while running the simulator on its supported platform.

• It's easy to restore a simulated TPM to its factory state by simply deleting its state file. A hardware TPM is harder to de-provision: you would have to write (and debug) a de-provisioning application.

• The normal TPM security protections (such as limited or no access to the platform hierarchy) don't get in the way.

• It's easy to “reboot” a simulated TPM without rebooting the platform. This eases tests for persistence issues and power management (suspend, hibernate) problems. It also speeds debugging.

• Finally, when it's time to debug, you already have the simulator environment set up.

Our experience with TPM 1.2 is that, once an application works with the simulator, it works unmodified with the hardware TPM.

 
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