9.5. Advisory TFV-5 (CVE-2017-15031)


Not initializing or saving/restoring PMCR_EL0 can leak secure world timing information




02 Oct 2017, updated on 04 Nov 2019

Versions Affected

All, up to and including v2.1

Configurations Affected



Leakage of sensitive secure world timing information

Fix Version

Pull Request #1127 (merged on 18 October 2017)

Commit e290a8fcbc (merged on 23 August 2019)

Commit c3e8b0be9b (merged on 27 September 2019)


Arm, Marek Bykowski

The PMCR_EL0 (Performance Monitors Control Register) provides details of the Performance Monitors implementation, including the number of counters implemented, and configures and controls the counters. If the PMCR_EL0.DP bit is set to zero, the cycle counter (when enabled) counts during secure world execution, even when prohibited by the debug signals.

Since TF-A does not save and restore PMCR_EL0 when switching between the normal and secure worlds, normal world code can set PMCR_EL0.DP to zero to cause leakage of secure world timing information. This register should be added to the list of saved/restored registers both when entering EL3 and also transitioning to S-EL1.

Furthermore, PMCR_EL0.DP has an architecturally UNKNOWN reset value. Since Arm TF does not initialize this register, it’s possible that on at least some implementations, PMCR_EL0.DP is set to zero by default. This and other bits with an architecturally UNKNOWN reset value should be initialized to sensible default values in the secure context.

The same issue exists for the equivalent AArch32 register, PMCR, except that here PMCR_EL0.DP architecturally resets to zero.

NOTE: The original pull request referenced above only fixed the issue for S-EL1 whereas the EL3 was fixed in the later commits.