Secure Boot



Secure Boot is a service offered by the UEFI boot firmware which verifies that all executable code loaded during the boot process is signed by a trusted key. This ensures that none of the privileged software on the device has been tampered with. In a Linux system, this encompasses the boot loader, the kernel, and device drivers.

Note that Secure Boot does not provide filesystem integrity, only boot loader, kernel and device driver (kernel module) integrity. If you are interested in filesystem integrity checking, the dm-verity framework may be what you are looking for.


The signatures used by Secure Boot are embedded in the binary files themselves, and as such, are largely independent of the Mender client; it will just deploy whatever files the update contains, with or without Secure Boot signatures. This means that in general, if a system was Secure Boot compliant before introducing the Mender client, it will keep being compliant after introducing it.

However, how you build the image affects whether it is Secure Boot compliant or not. Although the Mender client supports Secure Boot, not all of Mender's image building facilities do.

For the Yocto family of operating system images, meta-mender is the Yocto layer used to enable building of Mender compatible dual rootfs images. For the most part, signing for Secure Boot compliant images happens independently from Mender, and Mender will just use the signed components without "getting in the way" of Secure Boot.

However, some things are worth noting regarding the current implementation:

  • For ARM systems that use GRUB integration (the default):

    • If the system previously used U-Boot only, then Mender's Yocto layer introduces either the grub-efi or grub-efi-mender-precompiled recipe into the build. Make sure that the binary produced in either of these recipes is signed.

    • On ARM, U-Boot is usually used as a UEFI provider which loads GRUB. U-Boot therefore needs to have UEFI Secure Boot built in (CONFIG_EFI_SECURE_BOOT build option).

  • Currently we are not aware of any ways in which Mender "gets in the way" of Secure Boot, but it is not actively supported. For this reason, cannot guarantee that Mender will work with Secure Boot images using Yocto.

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