MCUboot port for NuttX


The NuttX port of MCUboot secure boot library expects that the platform provides a Flash storage with the following partitions:

  • CONFIG_MCUBOOT_PRIMARY_SLOT_PATH: MTD partition for the application firmware image PRIMARY slot;
  • CONFIG_MCUBOOT_SECONDARY_SLOT_PATH: MTD partition for the application firmware image SECONDARY slot;
  • CONFIG_MCUBOOT_SCRATCH_PATH: MTD partition for the Scratch area;

Also, these are optional features that may be enabled:

  • CONFIG_MCUBOOT_WATCHDOG: If CONFIG_WATCHDOG is enabled, MCUboot shall reset the watchdog timer indicated by CONFIG_MCUBOOT_WATCHDOG_DEVPATH to the current timeout value, preventing any imminent watchdog timeouts.

The porting layer of MCUboot library consists of the following interfaces:

  • <flash_map_backend/flash_map_backend.h>, for enabling MCUboot to manage the application firmware image slots in the device storage.
  • <mcuboot_config/mcuboot_config.h>, for configuration of MCUboot’s features.
  • <mcuboot_config/mcuboot_logging.h>, for providing logging capabilities.
  • <os/os_malloc.h>, for providing MCUboot access to the OS memory management interfaces.
  • <sysflash/sysflash.h>, for configuration of the system’s flash area organization.

The NuttX port of MCUboot is implemented at application-level and requires minimal knowledge about characteristics of the underlying storage device. This is achieved by means of the BCH and FTL subsystems, which enable MCUboot to manage MTD partitions via character device drivers using standard POSIX filesystem operations (e.g. open() / close() / read() / write()).

Creating MCUboot-compatible application firmware images

One common use case for MCUboot is to integrate it to a firmware update agent, which is an important component of a secure firmware update subsystem. Through MCUboot APIs an application is able to install a newly received application firmware image and, once this application firmware image is assured to be valid, the application may confirm it as a stable image. In case that application firmware image is deemed bogus, MCUboot provides an API for invalidating that update, which will induce a rollback procedure to the most recent stable application firmware image.

The CONFIG_MCUBOOT_UPDATE_AGENT_EXAMPLE example demonstrates this workflow by downloading an application firmware image from a webserver, installing it and triggering the firmware update process for the next boot after a system reset. There is also the CONFIG_MCUBOOT_SLOT_CONFIRM_EXAMPLE, which is a fairly simple example that just calls an MCUboot API for confirming the executing application firmware image as stable.

Using MCUboot on NuttX as a secure boot solution

NuttX port for MCUboot also enables the creation of a secure bootloader application requiring minimal platform-specific implementation. The logical implementation for the secure boot is performed at application-level by the MCUboot library. Once MCUboot validates the application firmware image, it delegates the loading and execution of the application firmware image to a platform-specific routine, which is accessed via boardctl(BOARDIOC_BOOT_IMAGE) call. Each platform must then provide an implementation for the board_boot_image() for executing the required actions in order to boot a new application firmware image (e.g. deinitialize peripherals, load the Program Counter register with the application firmware image entry point address).

The MCUboot bootloader application may be enabled by selecting the CONFIG_MCUBOOT_BOOTLOADER option.


IOCTL MTD commands

The implementation of <flash_map_backend/flash_map_backend.h> expects that the MTD driver for a given image partition handles the following ioctl commands:

  • MTDIOC_GEOMETRY, for retrieving information about the geometry of the MTD, required for the configuration of the size of each flash area.
  • MTDIOC_ERASESTATE, for retrieving the byte value of an erased cell of the MTD, required for the implementation of flash_area_erased_val() interface.

Write access alignment

Through flash_area_align() interface MCUboot expects that the implementation provides the shortest data length that may be written via flash_area_write() interface. The NuttX implementation passes through the BCH and FTL layers, which appropriately handle the write alignment restrictions of the underlying MTD. So The NuttX implementation of flash_area_align() is able to return a fixed value of 1 byte, even if the MTD does not support byte operations.


<flash_map_backend/flash_map_backend.h> functions are not multitasking-safe

MCUboot’s documentation imposes no restrictions regarding the usage of its public interfaces, which doesn’t mean they are thread-safe. But, regarding NuttX implementation of the <flash_map_backend/flash_map_backend.h>, it is safe to state that they are not multitasking-safe. NuttX implementation manages the MTD partitions via character device drivers. As file-descriptors cannot be shared between different tasks, if one task calls flash_area_open and another task calls flash_area_<read/write/close> passing the same struct flash_area instance, it will result in failure.