Contribution Guidelines for the OT Cryptolib

This guide is for contributors to the OT cryptolib (the code under sw/device/lib/crypto) and outlines some general coding guidelines.

Style and Naming

  • Cryptolib code should follow the C style guide and the OTBN style guide.
  • All definitions in the top-level API should be prefixed with otcrypto.
  • Unit tests should be named after the files they test, e.g. the test for foo.c would be

Code organization

  • The top-level cryptolib API is under sw/device/lib/crypto/include. This API should be kept as stable as possible.
  • If modifying the top-level API, update the documentation.
  • The drivers and their tests are under sw/device/lib/crypto/drivers.
  • All other code is under sw/device/lib/crypto/impl.
  • Unit tests are typically stored in the same directory as the code they test.
  • Device-side test code is under sw/device/tests/crypto.
  • Host-side test code is under sw/host/cryptotest.


  • Harden sensitive control flow with HARDENED_CHECK_EQ and similar.
  • Use word-aligned values wherever possible.
  • Use multi-bit booleans for sensitive control flow: kHardenedBoolTrue and kHardenedBoolFalse.
  • For sensitive value comparisons, use hardened_memeq.
  • Use hardened_memshred to clear any sensitive values that are no longer needed.
  • Turn icache off for code that needs to be constant-time.

See sw/device/lib/base/hardened.h for more details about how to use hardening macros.

Module IDs

  • Use grep -Ir MODULE_ID sw/device/lib/crypto/ to see existing IDs.
  • Add a unique MODULE_ID statement to the top of all .c files under sw/device/lib/crypto that include any OTCRYPTO error codes.
  • Pay attention to any pattern for module IDs in a given directory and try to be consistent. For example, some directories have module IDs that all begin with the same leter.
  • Test .c files that will never be imported by anything else can have the module ID “tst”.

Module IDs will show up in error codes when you run tests with --define crypto_status_debug=true. See the status codes section for more details.

Status Codes

  • All functions in the top-level API (sw/device/lib/crypto/include) should return otcrypto_status_t.
  • All internal functions should return either void or status_t.
  • Functions returning status_t or otcrypto_status_t should always return one of the codes defined in sw/device/lib/crypto/impl/status.h, e.g. OTCRYPTO_RECOV_ERR.
  • Always use HARDENED_TRY instead of TRY when checking if an internal function succeeded. TRY is OK for tests.
  • Prefix all function declarations that return status_t or otcrypto_status_t with OT_WARN_UNUSED_RESULT.


Specialized status codes

The cryptolib status code otcrypto_status_t is bit-compatible with status_t, but the error values are always the same. Typically, status_t would display the module ID and line number to help debugging, but since this information could theoretically help an attacker we do not want to expose it. However, this makes debugging errors in tests painful, since there are only a few possible error codes.

To solve that problem, we use the specialized error macros OTCRYPTO_RECOV_ERR, OTCRYPTO_BAD_ARGS, etc. These macros are defined differently depending on the OTCRYPTO_STATUS_DEBUG define:

  • if OTCRYPTO_STATUS_DEBUG is defined, the error codes behave like status_t and provide module IDs and line numbers
  • if OTCRYPTO_STATUS_DEBUG is not defined, the error codes are simply a few constant values as defined by the otcrypto_status_value_t enum.

You can pass --define crypto_status_debug=true to set the OTCRYPTO_STATUS_DEBUG flag via Bazel. See sw/device/lib/crypto/impl/status.h for more details, and see opentitan#17803 for the historical discussion.


The TRY macro only checks that the single “error” bit is not set. Since this would be vulnerable to fault attacks, the HARDENED_TRY macro checks specifically for the kHardenedBoolTrue value and fails if it gets anything else, even if the error bit is false.


This macro protects against a caller forgetting to check and forward the error code. It produces a compile-time warning.


Header file (top-level API):

 * Example top-level API function.
 * @param foo An input value.
 * @param[out] bar An output value.
 * @return Status code: OK or error.
otcrypto_status_t otcrypto_process_foo(otcrypto_byte_buf_t foo, otcrypto_word32_buf_t bar);

Header file (internal function):

 * Example internal function.
 * @param baz An input value.
 * @param[out] bar An output value.
 * @return Status code: OK or error.
status_t baz_to_bar(uint32_t baz, otcrypto_word32_buf_t bar);


 * Example internal static function.
 * @param foo An input value.
 * @param[out] baz An output value.
 * @return Status code: OK or error.
static status_t foo_to_baz(otcrypto_byte_buf_t foo, uint32_t baz) {
  // do something ...
  return OTCRYPTO_OK;

otcrypto_status_t otcrypto_process_foo(otcrypto_byte_buf_t foo, otcrypto_word32_buf_t bar) {
  // Check some basic error conditions.
  if (( == NULL && foo.len != 0) || == NULL) {

  // Call the internal function and check the result.
  uint32_t baz;
  HARDENED_TRY(foo_to_baz(foo, baz));

  // Call another internal function and directly return the result.
  return baz_to_bar(baz, bar);