Table of Contents
1 Summary
1.1 Signed firmware
1.2 Secure boot
1.3 Axis Edge Vault
1.4 Axis device ID
1.5 Signed video
2 Glossary
3 Introduction
4 Firmware tamper detection
4.1 Firmware signing
4.2 Signed firmware at Axis
5 Supply-chain tamper prevention
5.1 Secure boot
5.2 Axis secure boot
5.3 Secure boot and Custom Firmware Certificates
6 Tamper protected secrets
6.1 Axis device ID
7 Secure key storage
7.1 Secure storage of certificates with Axis Edge Vault
7.2 Safe key storage with a TPM (trusted platform module)
7.3 FIPS 140-2 certification
8 IEEE 802.1AR – device verification with Axis device ID
9 Video tampering detection
9.1 Signed video

1 Summary
This document describes some of the features available in Axis products that can mitigate cyber threats
and counter specific types of attacks. The features are:
• signed firmware
• secure boot
• Axis Edge Vault
• Axis device ID
• signed video.
The threats that are outlined include:
• firmware tampering
• supply-chain tampering
• extraction of private keys
• unauthorized device replacement
• video tampering.

1.1 Signed firmware
Signed firmware is implemented by the software vendor signing the firmware image with a private key.
When a firmware has this signature attached to it, a device will validate the firmware before accepting
to install it. If the device detects that the firmware integrity is compromised, the firmware upgrade
will be rejected.

1.2 Secure boot
Secure boot is a boot process that consists of an unbroken chain of cryptographically validated software,
starting in immutable memory (boot ROM). Being based on the use of signed firmware, secure boot ensures
that a device can boot only with authorized firmware.

1.3 Axis Edge Vault
Axis Edge Vault is a secure cryptographic compute module which can be used for cryptographic operations
on securely stored certificates. Edge Vault provides tamper protected storage, enabling each device to
protect its secrets. It sets a foundation for safe implementation of more advanced security features.

1.4 Axis device ID
Axis device ID works like a digital passport, unique for each device unit. It is securely and permanently
stored in Edge Vault as a certificate signed by Axis root certificate. Axis device ID is designed to prove the
origin of the device, enabling a new level of device trust through the life cycle of the product.

1.5 Signed video
Signed video ensures that video evidence can be verified as untampered without proving the chain of
custody of the video file. Each camera uses its unique Axis device ID, securely kept in Axis Edge Vault, to
add a signature into the video stream. When the video is played, the file player shows whether the video is
intact. Signed video hence makes it possible to trace the video back to the origin camera and verify that
the video has not been tampered after it left the camera.

2 Glossary
Certificate – In cryptography, a certificate is a signed document attesting origin and properties of a key
pair. The certificate is signed by a Certificate Authority, CA, and if the system trusts the CA then it will
also trust the certificates issued by it.
Certificate Authority, CA – the root of trust for a certificate chain. It is used to prove the authenticity
and veracity of underlying certificates.
FIPS – Federal Information Processing Standards, standards for data encryption and data security issued
in the US by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).
Immutable ROM – to safely store the trusted public keys and the program that are used to compare
signatures so that they cannot be overwritten.
Provisioning – the process of preparing and equipping a device for the network. This involves delivering
configuration data and policy settings to the device from a central point. The device is supplied with
keys and certificates.
Public key cryptography – an asymmetric cryptography system where any person can encrypt a message
using the receiver’s public key, but only the receiver – using the private key – can decrypt the message.
Can be used to both encrypt and sign messages.
TLS – Transport Layer Security, internet standard for protecting network traffic. TLS provides the S (for
secure) in HTTPS.

3 Introduction
Axis follows industry best practices in managing and responding to security vulnerabilities in our products
in order to minimize customer exposure to cyber risks. There is no way to guarantee that products and
services are free from flaws that can be exploited for malicious attacks. This is not specific to Axis, but
rather a general condition for all network devices. What Axis can guarantee, is that we always make a
concerted effort at every possible stage in order to ensure that the least risk possible is associated with
your Axis devices and services.

For more information about product security and discovered vulnerabilities, see For more information about the measures you can take to reduce
the risks of common threats, download Axis Hardening Guide from the same page.

This white paper presents some plausible cyberattacks and how they can be prevented in Axis products. It
describes specifically how the features signed firmware and secure boot can prevent firmware tampering
and supply-chain tampering. We also discuss the use of a trusted platform module (TPM) and Axis Edge
Vault, which can both be used to secure private keys. Axis Edge Vault is used to securely store Axis device
ID which enables a new level of device trust. Axis Edge Vault and Axis device ID also enables the use of
signed video, a feature for verifying that video has not been tampered with after it left the camera.

4 Firmware tamper detection
One possible attack vector that an adversary may try exploit after failing other attempts to breach the
system, is to get the system owner to install altered applications, firmware, or other software modules. The
altered software may include malicious code with a specific purpose. The common recommendation is to
never install any software from a source that you do not fully trust. In a video system context there may be
a “man in the middle” that could alter a device firmware and lure end users to install it. This is not an
easy exercise and the adversary needs to be very skilled and determined. He needs an extremely detailed
understanding of Axis firmware design and how the firmware operates in a device. Still, those adversaries
may exist if the value of attacking a specific system is high enough. The common counter measure is
for the software vendor to use signed firmware.

4.1 Firmware signing
Signed firmware is implemented by the software vendor signing the firmware image with a private
key, which is held secret. When a firmware has this signature attached to it, a device will validate the
firmware before accepting to install it. If the device detects that the firmware integrity is compromised,
the firmware upgrade will be rejected.

The process of signing firmware is initiated through the computation of a cryptographic hash value. The
value is then signed with the private key of a private/public key pair before the signature is attached
to the firmware image.

Before a firmware upgrade, the new firmware must be verified. To ensure that the new firmware is
unmodified, the public key (which is included with the Axis product) is used to confirm that the hash value
was indeed signed with the matching private key. By also computing the hash value of the firmware and
comparing it to this validated hash value from the signature, the integrity of the firmware can be verified.

4.2 Signed firmware at Axis
Axis signed firmware is based on the industry-accepted RSA public-key encryption method. The private
key is stored in a closely guarded location at Axis while the public key is embedded in Axis devices. The

integrity of the entire firmware image is assured by a signature of the image content. A primary signature
verifies a number of secondary signatures, being verified while the image is unpacked.

5 Supply-chain tamper prevention
Firmware signing protects a device, in all future firmware updates, from installing a compromised firmware.
But what if a man in the middle alters the device on its way between vendor and end user? An adversary
that has physical access to the device during transit could perform an attack, such as compromising the
boot partition of the device, bypassing firmware integrity checking in order to install an altered, malicious
firmware before the device is deployed.

5.1 Secure boot
Secure boot is a boot process that consists of an unbroken chain of cryptographically validated software,
starting in immutable memory (boot ROM). Being based on the use of signed firmware, secure boot ensures
that a device can boot only with authorized firmware.

The boot process is initiated by the boot ROM validating the bootloader. Secure boot then verifies, in
real-time, the embedded signatures for each block of firmware that is loaded from the flash memory. The
boot ROM serves as the root of trust, and the boot process continues only as long as each signature is
verified. Every part of the chain authenticates the next part, ultimately resulting in a verified Linux kernel
and a verified root file system.

5.2 Axis secure boot
In many devices, it is important that the low-level functionality is impossible to alter. When other security
mechanisms are built on top of the lower-level software, secure boot serves as a safe base layer that
protects those mechanisms from being circumvented.
For a device with secure boot, the installed firmware in the flash memory is protected from being modified.
The factory default image is protected, while the configuration remains unprotected. Secure boot
guarantees that the Axis device is completely clean from possible malware after a factory default.

5.3 Secure boot and Custom Firmware Certificates
While secure boot makes the product safer, it does also reduce the flexibility with different firmware,
making it more complicated to load any temporary firmware, such as test firmware or other custom
firmware from Axis, into the product. However, Axis has implemented a mechanism that approves
individual units to accept such non-production firmware. This firmware is signed in a different way, with
approval by both the owner and Axis, and results in a Custom Firmware Certificate. When installed in the
approved units, the certificate enables use of a custom firmware that can run only on the approved unit,
based on its unique serial number and chip ID. Custom Firmware Certificates can be created only by Axis,
since Axis holds the key to sign them.

6 Tamper protected secrets

A basic requirement for any secured distributed system is the ability to verify connections and prevent
eavesdropping. This requires each device to protect its secrets using tamper protected secure storage. Axis
Edge Vault provides such storage, and based on that foundation, more advanced security features can
be safely implemented.

6.1 Axis device ID
During production of each Axis network device unit a “digital passport” called Axis device ID is securely
installed in the unit’s Axis Edge Vault. This identity is unique for each unit and is designed to prove the
origin of the device. Axis device ID is a collection of certificates that is used in the cryptographic operation
part of the module to sign challenges presented by the embedded product firmware to Edge Vault. The
response from this operation is sent back to the receiver that can use Axis public keys to validate the
authentication of the response.

A certificate is a small piece of data combining a public key and metadata describing the key along with a
signature from the issuer attesting the validity of the certificate. A certificate hierarchy is a way to
prove the provenance of the certificate.

Let us consider an analogy between Axis device ID and a passport. If you have a passport, your country’s
government provides assurance that you are in fact the person that the passport claims you to be. In a
similar way, all Axis device ID certificates are endorsed by an Axis device ID Root CA Certificate. Just like
a customs agent trusts your country’s government to have correctly issued your passport, a network security system trusts the Axis device ID Root CA Certificate to have correctly verified a network-connected
unit’s Axis certificate.

7 Secure key storage
Axis devices support HTTPS (network encryption) and 802.1X (Network Access Control) which both use
TLS (Transport Layer Security). The digital certificates of TLS use a public/private key pair. The private key
is stored in the device while the public key is included in the certificate. Note that if neither HTTPS
nor 802.1X is used, there are no keys to protect.

An adversary could try to extract the private key and the certificate from the device and install them on an
attacking computer. In the case of HTTPS, that private key could be used to eavesdrop encrypted network
traffic between the device and the VMS. Or, if spoofing the network, the attacking computer could get
access to the VMS by pretending to be a legitimate device. In the case of 802.1X, the adversary could use
the private key to gain access to an 802.1X-protected network, posing as a trusted device.

Certificates and private keys are generally stored in a device’s file system, protected by the account access
policy and used in the normal computing environment. In most cases this is sufficient since the account
is not easily compromised. Note that certificates can be revoked if a compromise is suspected, making
the private key useless.

Some end users of critical systems may experience an increased risk of determined and skilled adversaries
that try to breach the device to extract the private key. Axis Edge Vault can be used to store the key in such
a way that it is close to impossible to extract it, even when the device is compromised.

7.1 Secure storage of certificates with Axis Edge Vault
Axis Edge Vault is a secure cryptographic compute module in form of a chip mounted on the PCB inside the
product. Edge Vault has the possibility to securely store certificates and can be used for cryptographic
operations on securely stored certificates.
Certificates that are stored in Edge Vault do not need to leave it in order to be used by the device. They
stay securely in Edge Vault even when they are being used, since the cryptographic hardware that operates
on the key is installed on the same physical chip.

7.2 Safe key storage with a TPM (trusted platform module)
A TPM is a component which provides a certain set of cryptographic features suitable for protecting
information from unauthorized access. The private key is stored in the TPM and never leaves the TPM. All
cryptographic operations requiring the use of the private key are sent to the TPM to be processed. This
ensures that the secret part of the certificate never leaves the secure environment within the TPM and
remains safe even in the event of a security breach.

7.3 FIPS 140-2 certification
For some products and use cases, it may be a regulatory requirement to use a TPM for protecting
information, sometimes in combination with a requirement of FIPS 140-2 compliance. FIPS (Federal
Information Processing Standard) 140-2 is an information security standard for cryptographic modules,
issued in the US by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).

Validation by a NIST-certified test laboratory assures that the module system and the cryptography
of the module are correctly implemented. In short, the certification requires description, specification,
and verification of the cryptographic module, approved algorithms, approved modes of operation, and
power-up tests.

More details about the certification requirements of FIPS 140-2 can be found at the NIST website

7.3.1 Certified TPM in Axis products
The TPM used in selected Axis products is certified to meet the requirements of FIPS 140-2. More
specifically, it is certified to Security Level 2 of the standard, which means that the TPM also fulfills
requirements for role-based authorization and tamper evidence, among other requirements.

8 IEEE 802.1AR – device verification with Axis device ID
A person buying an Axis network device can perform a manual examination before starting to use it. By
visually inspecting the product and using prior knowledge about the look and feel of Axis products, the
customer can feel convinced that the product really does originate from Axis. However, that type of
inspection can only be done by a person with physical access to the product. So, when you communicate
with a non-provisioned product over a network, how can you be sure that you are communicating with the
correct unit? That the device has not been unauthorizedly replaced? Neither networked equipment nor
software on servers can perform a physical inspection. As a security measure, it has been common to first
interact with a new product over a closed network, where the unit can be provisioned safely.

The new international standard IEEE 802.1AR ( defines a method
for how to automate and secure the identification of a device over a network. If the communication is forwarded into an embedded secure module, the unit can return a trustworthy identification response
according to the standard

In Axis products, these security measures are implemented by use of Axis Edge Vault and Axis device ID.
Axis Edge Vault is a secure module in which Axis device ID, a collection of certificates to verify device
identification, is installed. These features provide your network with cryptographically verifiable proof
that a specific unit was produced by Axis and that the network connection to the unit is indeed served
by that very unit.

A device with Axis device ID has been provisioned in the factory (with keys and certificates). This
provisioning can later be used by a customer to further provision the device in the field with other keys
and/or certificates allowing it to access some of the customer’s network resources.

By identifying the unit with Axis device ID, the time for deployment of devices can be reduced, since less
work needs to be done with the device before installing and configuring for it on the intended network. Another benefit is that Axis device ID, apart from providing an additional, built-in source of trust, also
provides a means to keep track of devices in a large system.

9 Video tampering detection
A basic premise in the security industry is that video recorded by surveillance cameras is authentic and can
be trusted. Signed video is a feature developed to maintain and further strengthen the confidence in video
as evidence. By verifying video authenticity, the feature provides a means to ensure that video has not
been edited or tampered with after it left the camera.

9.1 Signed video
With the signed video feature from Axis, a signature in the video stream can be used to safeguard that the
video is intact and verify its origin by tracing it back to the camera that produced it. This makes it possible
to prove the video authenticity without having to prove the chain of custody of the video file.

After an incident has been recorded by a security camera system, the police may extract the video as
exported video files on a USB stick and save them in an EMS (evidence management system). While
exporting the video from the camera, the police officer can see that the video is correctly signed. If it is later used in a prosecution process, the court can control and verify at what time the video was recorded,
by which camera, and whether any video frames have been altered or removed. With the file player from
Axis, anyone with a copy of the video can see this information.

Each camera uses its unique Axis device ID in Axis Edge Vault to add a signature into the video stream. This
is done by computing a hash of each video frame, including metadata, and signing the combined hash in
Edge Vault. The signature is then stored in the stream in dedicated metadata fields (the SEI header).

The actual signing is done using a unit-specific video signing key which is attested to the device-unique
Axis device ID. The attestation report is attached to the stream at start and then at periodic intervals,
typically once every hour. Since the metadata contains each individual frame hash it is possible to detect which individual frame is correct. To make the signing complete, the GOP structure of the video must
be protected. This is done by including the hash of the first I-frame of the next GOP, in the signature.
This prevents undetectable cuts or reordering of the frames. The unlikely events of losing frames during
streaming, or damaging of content when storing it, will be flagged in the same way.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *