ESP32 chip comes with built-in security features, one of which is a transparent SPI flash encryption (for details see Espressif's documentation). That feature is critical for securing device's cloud access.
By default, an ESP32 firmware is kept in plain text form on flash:
# Dump initial 2k of filesystem area to stdout mos flash-read --arch esp32 0x190000 2000 -
flash-read command dumps the flash memory into a file and the output can show that the content is not encrypted. Therefore, sensitive information like TLS private keys could be easily stolen from the flash, since the part of the device's file system is not encrypted.
Enabling flash encryption
In order to enable flash encryption, use the Mongoose OS
esp32-gen-key command. It enables flash encryption for the next flashing:
mos -X esp32-gen-key flash_encryption_key fe.key --esp32-enable-flash-encryption --dry-run=false mos flash esp32 --esp32-encryption-key-file fe.key
Please note, this is irreversible and once flash encryption is enabled you cannot go back.
Note of an extra flag
--esp32-encryption-key-file fe.key for the
flash command. From now on, a key file is required to re-flash the device. If the 'key file' is lost, the module can not be reflashed. After flash encryption is enabled, the very first boot performs an encryption, which can take a while (up to a minute in average). Subsequent boots will be normal, as the encryption is already performed.
Once the flash is encrypted, one can verify it by using
flash-read command to ensure there are no plain-text parts present:
mos flash-read --arch esp32 0x190000 2000 -
You can watch a video tutorial that goes over the steps described above:
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