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TPM sniffing


Bitlocker is the Full Disk Encryption (FDE) solution offered by Microsoft for its Windows operating systems starting with Windows Vista to protect users’ data at rest. The solution offers various configurations including several ways to store the decryption key. The most common configuration consists in storing the Volume Master Key (VMK) within the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) that is embedded in recent computers.

This setup is interesting because the decryption is completely transparent to the user. This benefit surpasses others since many companies are reluctant to configure an additional password/PIN for the user to boot its computer. The downside is that it opens the door to several attacks including the TPM sniffing described in this post but also DMA or Cold Boot attacks.

Under the hood, the TPM checks various system properties during the startup to ensure that the boot sequence has not been altered. If the validation succeeds, the VMK is released and transmitted to the CPU which could start to decrypt the disk and to load the operating system.

Depending on the hardware, the TPM can be connected to the motherboard with several communication channels including LPC, I2C or SPI. These buses share a common property, namely a low transmission speed (the clock is generally around 25Mhz). This is not an issue for the solution because only a limited quantity of data has to be transmitted but it makes channel sniffing easier since required hardware is inexpensive.

Finding the TPM

The first step to perform this attack is to locate the right place to probe. Of course, the location varies depending on each motherboard. In our case, the test subject was a Lenovo ThinkPad L440.

The best way to find the communication bus is if you can obtain the motherboard schematics, but we could only find one website that had the schematics for the L440, and it seemed a bit dodgy.

Instead, we decided to go the manual way and started our journey by locating the TPM chip. These chips usually come in TSSOP28 or VQFN32 packages. We found a TSSOP28 chip labeled P24JPVSP under the trackpad and Google seemed to indicate that it is related to TPM: