🔄Advanced TMKMS Integration

Setting up AWS Nitro Enclaves + Tendermint KMS for signing blocks

CAUTION The setup isn't yet ready for production use:


TMKMS, initially targeting Cosmos Validators, provides High-availability, Double-signing prevention and Hardware security module.

Currently, TMKMS provides both hardware signing and softsign. However, it is hard or impossible to plug your own Hardware Security Modules(HSM) into the major cloud providers when one wants to run it on the cloud for hardware signing. On the other hand, it is also insecure to use softsign as your generated signing key is actually in plain text on the machine.

What we want to achieve is just running TMKMS securely and provision validator conveniently on the cloud. To meet this end, we now can leverage AWS Nitro Enclaves to execute TMKMS and TMKMS then decrypts (during initialization) the signing via AWS KMS. Read more details here

Note that this is still a work in progress and this document only describes a basic setup, so it is not yet ready for production use. We recommend looking at other materials for additional setups, such as the Security best practices for AWS KMS whitepaper.

Step 1. Set up supported EC2 instance types

Virtualized Nitro-based instances with at least four vCPUs. t3, t3a, t4g, a1, c6g, c6gd, m6g, m6gd, r6g, and r6gd instances are not supported.

We recommend m5a.xlarge and Amazon Linux 2 AMI for easier installation for AWS Nitro Enclaves CLI.

Step 2. Installing the Nitro Enclaves CLI

One needs to install Docker + Nitro Enclaves CLI.

Follow this doc to proceed.

Step 3. Prepare TMKMS Enclave images on EC2

You can either follow this compiling-tmkms-for-aws-ne to build TMKMS Enclave images from scratch or simply use our published image.

$ mkdir ~/.tmkms
$ nitro-cli build-enclave --docker-uri cryptocom/nitro-enclave-tmkms:latest --output-file ~/.tmkms/tmkms.eif

After building the enclave image, you should obtain 3 enclave's measurements(PCRs): PCR0 (SHA384 hash of the image), PCR1 (SHA384 hash of the OS kernel and the bootstrap process), and PCR2 (SHA384 hash of the application). Take note of the PCR0 value. One can also use PCR3 and PCR8, for more details, please find this link

And also create and take a note of PCR4 manually which is unique across ec2.

$ printf "PCR4: %s\n" $(INSTANCE_ID="$(curl -s)"; python -c"import hashlib, sys; h=hashlib.sha384(); h.update(b'\0'*48); h.update(\"$INSTANCE_ID\".encode('utf-8')); print(h.hexdigest())")

Step 4. Preparing IAM instance role and AWS KMS policy

Step 4.1. Create an IAM role for EC2

Create an IAM role for the created EC2 previously without permissions policies attached. We will allow this role to decrypt with CMK inside nitro enclave in KMS key policy instead.

Attach this role to the previously created EC2. Check this guide.

Step 4.2. Create your CMK

  • Create your symmetric CMK

  • Define key administrative permissions and key usage permissions that user can admin, encrypt and decrypt the signing key in your local or a trusted machine via AWS CLI.

  • Edit key policy to allow only TMKMS inside nitro enclave to decrypt instead of entire EC2 and encrypt on EC2 You should have a generated policy shown in the console.

    For the decryption action, you should add the following snippet in "Statement" as:

    "Id": "key-consolepolicy-3",
    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Sid": "Enable decrypt from nitro enclave only",
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Principal": {
                "AWS": "arn:aws:iam::<AWS_ACCOUNT_ID>:role/<EC2_IAM_ROLE>"
            "Action": "kms:Decrypt",
            "Resource": "*",
            "Condition": {
                "StringEqualsIgnoreCase": {
                    "kms:RecipientAttestation:PCR4": "<PCR4>",
                    "kms:RecipientAttestation:PCR0": "<PCR0>"
            "Sid": "Enable encrypt from instance only",
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Principal": {
                "AWS": "arn:aws:iam::<AWS_ACCOUNT_ID>:role/<EC2_IAM_ROLE>"
            "Action": "kms:Encrypt",
            "Resource": "*"

Change EC2_IAM_ROLE ,PCR0 and PCR4 to what we just created in previous steps.

If you plan to run the tmkms enclave in the debug mode, set the recipient attestation value to: 000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 (instead of the PCR0 value).

Step 5. Prepare encrypted validator signing key on your local machine

Step 5.1. Install tmkms-nitro-helper on EC2

Install tmkms-nitro-helper from source code.

$ git clone https://github.com/crypto-com/tmkms-light.git && cd tmkms-light
$ sudo yum install -y openssl-devel
$ cargo build --release -p tmkms-nitro-helper
$ cp ./target/release/tmkms-nitro-helper /usr/local/bin/

Step 5.2. Generate a new encrypted validator signing key

bech32-prefix is crocnclconspub for mainnet and tcrocnclconspub for testnet

$ tmkms-nitro-helper init -a <KMS_REGION> -k <KMS_KEY_ID> -p bech32 -b <bech32-prefix>

It should generate a bech32 public key to stdout and an encrypted private key in relative path secrets/secret.key. We need bech32 public key for node join and secret.key to decrypt inside enclave.

Step 6. Configure tmkms.toml for enclave TMKMS on EC2

Move above generated secrets/secret.key to ~/.tmkms directory

Create tmkms.toml under ~/.tmkms directory as:

address = 'unix:///tmp/sockets/validator.socket'
chain_id = '<chain id>'
sealed_consensus_key_path = 'secrets/secret.key'
state_file_path = 'state/priv_validator_state.json'
enclave_config_cid = 15 #overridden by flag
enclave_config_port = 5050
enclave_state_port = 5555
enclave_tendermint_conn = 5000
aws_region = '<AWS region to use for KMS>'

Example: tmkms.toml for testnet

address = 'unix:///home/ec2-user/sockets/validator.socket'
chain_id = 'testnet-croeseid-4'
sealed_consensus_key_path = '/home/ec2-user/.tmkms/secrets/secret.key'
state_file_path = '/home/ec2-user/.tmkms/state/priv_validator_state.json'
enclave_config_cid = 15 #overridden by flag
enclave_config_port = 5050
enclave_state_port = 5555
enclave_tendermint_conn = 5000
aws_region = 'ap-southeast-1'

Step 7. Create TMKMS enclave service

To launch the TMKMS enclave, one needs to execute several commands to make it work.

$ nitro-cli run-enclave --cpu-count 2 --memory 512 --eif-path /home/ec2-user/.tmkms/tmkms.eif
# run in background with specific kms region
$ vsock-proxy 8000 kms.<KMS_REGION>.amazonaws.com 443 & 
$ tmkms-nitro-helper start -c /home/ec2-user/.tmkms/tmkms.toml --cid $(nitro-cli describe-enclaves | jq -r .[0].EnclaveCID)

In order to have a resilient validator, one should run the TMKMS enclave as a service.

Step 7.1. Create a script to run TMKMS enclave


set -e

  nitro-cli terminate-enclave --enclave-id $(nitro-cli describe-enclaves | jq -r .[0].EnclaveID) || echo "no existing enclave"
  sudo kill -TERM $(pidof vsock-proxy)
  exit 1

nitro-cli run-enclave --cpu-count 2 --memory 512 --eif-path /home/ec2-user/.tmkms/tmkms.eif || TRAP_FUNC

vsock-proxy 8000 kms.<KMS_REGION>.amazonaws.com 443 &
echo "[vsock-proxy] Running in background ..."


sleep 1
/home/ec2-user/bin/tmkms-nitro-helper start -c /home/ec2-user/.tmkms/tmkms.toml --cid $(nitro-cli describe-enclaves | jq -r .[0].EnclaveCID)

One should adjust the <KMS_REGION> in the script if set differently in tmkms.toml eg. us-east-1

Create the script run_tmkms_nitro_helper.sh with executable permissions under ~/.tmkms directory

$ chmod +x run_tmkms_nitro_helper.sh

Step 7.2. Create systemd service for TMKMS enclave

Description=Tendermint KMS




# make sure log directory exists

ExecStartPre=/bin/mkdir -p /home/ec2-user/sockets /home/ec2-user/state
ExecStartPre=/bin/chown ec2-user:ec2-user /home/ec2-user/sockets /home/ec2-user/state


One should adjust the path in the systemd file if set different paths for the binary and script.

Create /lib/systemd/system/tmkms.service and run the service

sudo systemctl daemon-reload
sudo systemctl enable tmkms.service
sudo systemctl start tmkms.service

Step 8. Running chain-maind

One should follow the same steps in Croeseid Testnet: Running Nodes

Except for one last thing one needs to further configure ~/.chain-maind/config/config.toml to enable enclave tmkm to sign.

In ~/.chain-maind/config/config.toml, priv_validator_key_file and priv_validator_state_file should be commented and uncomment priv_validator_laddr to value unix://... which should match the address in tmkms.toml. e.g. unix:///home/ec2-user/sockets/validator.socket

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