Ownership Transfer

Author(s): Miguel Osorio

Version: 0.1


The Silicon Owner is defined as a logical entity or entities allowed to sign code for execution, as well as to sign ownership management commands1. OpenTitan supports the following device life cycle states to manage the ownership state of the device:

  • UNOWNED: The device is ready to be assigned to a new owner.
  • OWNED: The device is assigned to an owner and in operational mode.

This document defines the ownership management functions that control the transitions between ownership states:

Unlock Ownership

Implements transition from OWNED to UNOWNED state. The device must be in UNOWNED state before it can be assigned to a new owner.

Ownership Transfer (or Ownership Assignment)

Implements transition from UNOWNED to OWNED stage. The rest of this document refers to this functionality as Ownership Transfer. The following keys are provisioned as part of this flow:

Key Description
CODE_SIGN Used to verify the Silicon Owner first bootloader stage.
UNLOCK Used to authenticate the Unlock Ownership command.
NEXT_OWNER Used to authenticate the Ownership Transfer command.

The UNLOCK and NEXT_OWNER keys are required to ensure ownership state transitions are only triggered by authenticated and authorized commands. Authorization is implemented via key identification (UNLOCK versus NEXT_OWNER).

Transition into OWNED stage results in a new device Owner Identity, used in attestation and post-ownership-transfer application provisioning flows.

There are three modes of ownership transfer supported:

  • Silicon Creator endorses Next Owner: The Silicon Creator signs the set of public keys associated with the next owner as part of the ownership transfer flow.
  • Current Owner endorses Next Owner: The Current Owner signs the set of keys associated with the next owner as part of the ownership transfer flow.
  • Fixed Owner: In this case a single owner is provisioned on the device and ownership transfer is disabled via manufacturing SKU configuration.


Boot stages:

  • ROM: Metal mask ROM, sometimes known as Boot ROM.
  • ROM_EXT: ROM Extension. Stored in flash and signed by the Silicon Creator.
  • Owner boot stages. This document uses two stages as an example. The Silicon Owner is free to choose other boot configurations.
    • BL0: Bootloader. Signed by the Silicon Owner.
    • KERNEL: Signed by the Silicon Owner.

Key Provisioning

As part of the Ownership Transfer flow, the Silicon Owner keys are endorsed either by the Silicon Creator or by the Current Owner of the device. This is done to ensure that only authenticated and authorized entities are able to take ownership of the device.

Key Endorsement Format

Key endorsement is implemented as a signed manifest. The rest of the document refers to this as the Key Endorsement Manifest, or manifest for simplicity. The following fields must be supported by the manifest implementation:


Signature covering the signed manifest. The number of bytes depends on the signature_algorithm field.


Must match the signature algorithm used by the secure boot configuration. The following list is not exhaustive, and may change based on the implementation. The implementation shall choose the appropriate signature verification scheme based on the secure boot security level requirements.

RSA 3072:

  • pkcs1-v1_5-with-sha-2-256
  • pkcs1-v1_5-with-sha-2-512
  • pkcs1-v1_5-with-sha-3-256
  • pkcs1-v1_5-with-sha-3-384
  • pkcs1-v1_5-with-sha-3-512


Public key to verify the signature with. The number of bytes depends on the signature_algorithm field. Depending on the ownership transfer model, the public key must match one of the following requirements:

Endorsing Entity Public Key Requirement
Silicon Creator The public key must be stored in the ROM_EXT and integrity protected by the ROM_EXT signature.
Previous Owner The public key must be stored in the previous owner slot and labeled as the NEXT_OWNER in the policy field. See owner_keys for more details.

owner_keys (array)

List of public keys endorsed by the manifest. The format of the public key descriptor depends on the signature_algorithm field. For example, RSA-3072 with pkcs1-v1_5-with-sha-2-256 contains the following fields:

  • public_key: RSA (N|e) parameters.
  • policy: Key usage policy, bitmap decoded to one or more of the following:
    • CODE_SIGN: Key used to verify the Silicon Owner first bootloader stage.
    • UNLOCK: Key used to verify unlock ownership commands.
    • NEXT_OWNER: Used to verify ownership assignment commands, using the proposed key endorsement manifest format.

Optional Parameters

The following parameters are required in the secure boot manifest implementation, but are left as optional in the key endorsement manifest. The Silicon Creator or previous Silicon Owner may want to implement these parameters to restrict the deployment of the endorsed keys.

Note: If implemented, the restrictions imposed by these fields cannot be revoked by ownership transfer once provisioned. This is to simplify the implementation of an open samples policy.


Minimum list of fuses that must match the device configuration before committing the endorsed keys to flash. The hash of the list of targeted fuse values is hashed with the endorsement manifest before signing.

Note: The device identifier fuses can be added to the otp_settings to restrict the keys to be used with a single device. This mode of operation is referred to as node-locked secure boot configuration.

Device Key Provisioning Flow

The following figure shows the sequence of operations to commit the new set of keys once the key endorsement manifest has been verified.


  • slot: Owner slot. This implementation assumes that there are only 2 owner slots, so the only valid values are 0 and 1.
  • id: The owner assignment identifier. It is implemented as a monotonically increasing counter. The new owner id is equivalent to N + 1 for a previous owner id of N.
  • pub_keys: List of keys associated with the owner slot. Includes key policy information.
  • digest: Integrity of the owner slot record calculated as MAC(Kn, slot|id|pub_keys). The key (Kn) requirements are described later in more detail.
Figure: Provisioning sequence versus owner slots.

Detailed description:

Step 1 (S1) Initial State

The current owner is stored in slot 0 and the device is in unlocked ownership state. A key stored in the current owner slot (0) is used to validate the key endorsement manifest for the next owner.

Step 2 (S2) Intermediate State

The new owner keys are written into the available owner slot - in this case slot one. The pub_keys and digest parameters are written before the id. Once the idis written into flash, the new owner slot entry is considered to be valid.

The id parameter must be strictly greater than the previous owner id.

Step 3 (S3) Final State

An additional integrity check over the new owner slot is performed before completing provisioning of the new owner keys. Upon successful verification, the new owner is marked as the current owner by deleting the id of the previous owner. The pub_keys of the previous owner may be deleted as well as part of this step.

Integrity Key (Kn, Kn+1)

Integrity keys are used to implement integrity checks for each owner slot. The integrity key has the following requirements:

  • IK_REQ1: The key shall be unique per owner slot and ownership configuration.
  • IK_REQ2: The key can only be computed by a trusted ROM_EXT boot configuration.
  • IK_REQ3: The key only available to the ROM/ROM_EXT.

These requirements can be achieved by a combination of physical security and cryptographic guarantees. The following example demonstrates how to derive the Integrity Key from a symmetric key stored in OTP and only available to ROM/ROM_EXT software.

Key Step Function - MAC

This approach relies on a symmetric secret (K) managed by the ROM/ROM_EXT software. It is intended to mitigate boot time issues associated with consuming K directly from the key manager.


  • K: Device integrity secret provisioned at manufacturing time. Only visible to ROM and ROM_EXT software. Stored in OTP.
  • slot: Owner slot. This implementation assumes that there are only 2 owner slots, so the only valid values are 0 and 1. This parameter is used to make sure the key cannot be reused to verify the other slot.
  • n: The owner assignment identifier. It is implemented as a monotonically increasing counter. It is used here to bind the key to the owner identifier.
  • prev_owner_digest: (Under consideration) Digest of the previous owner (e.g. id = n - 1). Used to bind the key to the custody chain (chain of owners).

Function: MAC is an OpenTitan approved MAC function.

Kn = MAC(K, "OwnerSlot" | slot | n | prev_owner_digest)

The slot and n values are used to fulfill the IK_REQ1 requirement. The availability of K is enforced by software to fulfill IK_REQ2 and IK_REQ3. prev_owner_digest is under consideration to bind the key to the custody chain (chain of ownership).

Additional Requirements

Key Manager Availability

The ROM_EXT is required to disable the key manager before handing over execution to the next boot stage when the device is in device UNLOCKED ownership state.

Manufacturing Requirements

Determine if the prev_owner_digest field must be initialized with non-zero value at manufacturing time.

OpenTitan Device Mode

A host can send unlock ownership and ownership transfer commands to OpenTitan via any physical interface supported by the ROM_EXT. The details of the command transport layer protocol, as well as the list of supported physical devices are left to the reference software implementation.

However, there must be at least one mechanism available to perform ownership transfer at manufacturing time using an implementation compatible with ATE2 infrastructure.

Unlock Ownership

This flow implements transition from OWNED to UNOWNED ownership states. It is used by the Silicon Owner to relinquish ownership of the device and enable ownership transfer functionality. The device must be in UNOWNED state before it can be assigned to a new owner.

The unlock operation is implemented as a signed command sent from the Kernel/Application layer to the ROM_EXT. The signature is required to allow the current owner to only allow authenticated and authorized users access to the unlock ownership flow.

The following fields must be supported by the command:


Signature covering the command structure. The signature is verified using the UNLOCK key stored in the active owner slot.


Ownership-unlock nonce value, which is generated at the time the current owner first took ownership of the device.

  • The nonce is expected to be unique per device and ownership assignment.
  • The nonce is stored to make the unlock command re-triable (and fault tolerant).
  • The nonce may be readable from any boot stage to simplify the unlock operation.


Additional flags passed to the ROM_EXT to configure unlock flow settings:

  • WIPE_FLASH: Erase owner flash contents on successful unlock operation.


The following sequence diagram shows a reference implementation of the unlock flow. Error handling is omitted for simplicity.

Figure: Device unlock

Detailed description:

Step 1 (S1) Get unlock nonce and device id: The Host queries the device identifier and unlock nonce from the device.

Steps 2-4 (S2, S3, S4) Request unlock command signature: The Host requests the Device Registry service to sign the unlock ownership command for the device id with provided nonce. The Device Registry requests a cloud key manager service to sign the command with a key associated with the device identifier. The signature must be verifiable with the UNLOCK key stored in the active owner slot.

Step 5 (S5) Request device unlock: The Host sends the unlock ownership command to the Device. The command is first handled by the Kernel/APP layer.

Step 6 (S6) Pre-unlock steps: The Kernel/APP layer may verify the unlock command and execute any pre-unlock steps, including erasing owner level secrets.

Step 7 (S7) Request device unlock: The Kernel copies the unlock command to a boot services memory region shared with the ROM_EXT, and performs a reset to trigger the unlock operation on the next boot.

Step 8 (S8) Unlock steps: The ROM_EXT verifies the unlock command and updates the device state to UNOWNED state. The Device proceeds with the boot flow and reports the unlock result to the kernel via shared memory.

Step 9 (S9) Unlock result: The unlock result is first propagated to the Device Kernel/APP layer. The Kernel may opt to execute any post-unlock steps before propagating the result to the Host. The Host propagates the unlock result to the Device Registry. The Device Registry may opt to remove the device from its allow-list.

Ownership Transfer

An ownership transfer command sent by a host to OpenTitan, is serviced by the ROM extension (ROM_EXT) allowing the Silicon Owner to take ownership of the device at silicon manufacture, Contract Manufacturing (CM) stage or in the field.

Figure: Ownership Transfer supported by ROM_EXT

Step Description
Unowned state

Entry into the ownership transfer flow is conditional to the device being in UNOWNED state. See Unlock Flow for more details on how to transition from OWNED to UNOWNED states.

Verify payload header

The ownership transfer payload header including the key endorsement manifest is verified by the ROM extension. The header shall fit within available SRAM and be signed by an approved key as described in the Key Provisioning section.

Flash erase

Code, data and info pages available to the Silicon Owner are erased. Erase checks are performed.

Reset secrets

The OwnerRootSecret is reset with a value extracted from a DRBG configured with a security strength equivalent to one supported by the key manager.

Rotate unlock nonce

A 64bit random value is extracted from the DRBG to be used as an unlock nonce. See Unlock Flow for more details.

Provision owner keys

Owner keys are provisioned into the device as defined in the Key Provisioning section.

Flash image Owner software is written into one of the flash partitions.
Activate owner

Owner software sends a command to the ROM_EXT to complete ownership transfer, which effectively sets the new owner as the current owner.

OpenTitan Host Mode

Some of the OpenTitan use cases require support for self updates in which OpenTitan is used in host mode to scan an external device interface for update payloads. This section describes Ownership Transfer layered on top of such self update mechanism.

An OpenTitan implementation may support this ownership transfer model at the SKU level.

Unlock Ownership

The Device is initially in OWNED state and configured with a stack signed by the current owner. The following steps must be implemented in a fault tolerant way:

  1. The Device is updated to a stack able to support the ownership transfer implementation as described in the next section. The owner may opt for clearing any device secrets as part of this step.
  2. Ownership unlock is performed as described in the OpenTitan device mode Unlock Flow section.

Ownership Transfer

In this section, SPI EEPROM is used as the target device. However, the implementation may opt for supporting other targets.

The Device is initially in UNOWNED state and configured with a stack (Kernel + APPs) able to scan an external SPI EEPROM and trigger the ownership transfer flow. The following procedure also assumes that the Device storage follows the internal flash layout guidelines.

The process must be implemented in a fault tolerant manner to be able to restart the process to recover from a failed attempt.

Detailed steps:

  1. The current owner endorses the next owner keys as described in the Key Endorsement section.
  2. The next owner writes the key endorsement manifest to the external EEPROM followed by an update payload. The update payload includes all the silicon owner boot stages.
  3. The Device kernel module or application in charge of performing ownership transfer, referred to as the application, is activated upon detecting the UNOWNED ownership state at Device boot time.
  4. The application scans the external EEPROM for a valid key endorsement manifest and update payload. The key endorsement manifest is validated with the current owner’s NEXT_OWNER key. The update payload is validated with one of the CODE_SIGN keys embedded in the key endorsement manifest.
  5. The application writes the inactive embedded flash code partitions with the ones included in the update payload.
    • Note: In order to avoid a BL0 (bootloader) fixed flash size allocation across all owners, the implementation may opt to support the following:
      1. The boot flow will give preference to the next boot stage residing in the same flash bank if both A and B versions are the same.
      2. The A/B flash layout may contain two identical copies of the stack at the start of the process to make sure it is possible to boot from a single flash bank.
  6. The application loads the key endorsement manifest into the boot services shared memory region and triggers a reset to perform ownership transfer on the next boot cycle.
  7. The ROM_EXT executes the ownership transfer flow described in the Ownership Transfer section with the following differences:
    1. Flash erase and flash image stages are not executed.
    2. The activate owner stage may be delayed and executed later depending on the implementation.
  8. The ROM_EXT attempts to boot the new owner image with the new owner configuration.
  9. On the first boot, the new owner image queues an activate owner command, which is then executed by the ROM_EXT on the next boot. The new owner becomes the current owner.
  10. The previous owner code partitions can be erased at this point.
  11. Device attestation can be performed after this point.

Ownership Transfer Disabled

Ownership Transfer can be disabled at the SKU level. In this case secure boot is implemented by storing the Silicon Owner BL0 verification keys in the ROM_EXT. The ROM_EXT is thus not required to implement ownership transfer in this configuration.

Flash Layout

To simplify the implementation, the flash layout implements fixed offset and size allocations for the ROM_EXT and the certificate storage regions. This allows the flash erase and write operations to be performed at deterministic address ranges.

The implementation may opt to store the certificates in info regions to save data partition space.

Figure: Flash layout

owner_slot_0 and owner_slot_1 are used to store the Silicon Owner keys as described in the Key Provisioning section.

Attestation Update

Regular attestation updates as described in the Attestation specification are available when the device has an active owner. Devices in ownership UNOWNED state may have restricted attestation capabilities, for example, restricted to only end-to-end attestation.

Ownership Transfer During Manufacturing

Manufacturing shall not preclude the implementation of the following default stack configurations:

  • OWNED state with default factory image.
  • UNOWNED (unlocked) state with default factory image.
  • OWNED state with default factory image and Ownership Transfer disabled.

Factory software may be used to configure the ownership slots before injecting the factory image.


  1. https://docs.opentitan.org/doc/security/logical_security_model/#silicon-owner ↩︎

  2. Automatic Test Equipment used at package level testing. ↩︎