Skip to content
Switch branches/tags

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time


CircleCI Hex version

This is a minimal implementation of PKCS #11 for using the NervesKey with OpenSSL and other programs. The NervesKey is a specific configuration of the ATECC508A/ATECC608A chips that holds one private key in slot 0. If you're using this chip in a similar configuration, this should work for you as well.

Supported features:


This library is organized to make it easy to integrate into Elixir and is written with an expectation that provisioning, extracting certificates, etc. is done via other means (like using nerves_key.) If you're not using Elixir, you can still run make and copy priv/ to a conveniently location. Elixir isn't needed to build the C library.

Another option is to look at cryptoauth-openssl-engine or cryptoauthlib.


This library is self-contained with no compile-time dependencies. At runtime, it isn't useful unless you have another program around that uses a PKCS #11 shared library.

If using it with Elixir, add a dependency to your mix.exs:

def deps do
    {:nerves_key_pkcs11, "~> 0.2.2"}

If not using Elixir, run make. You may need to set $(CC) or $(CFLAGS) if you're crosscompiling.

Slot definition

PKCS #11 uses the term slot to refer to cryptographic devices. This library can use either slot ID (if called directly) or the slot's token ID (if called via libp11) to find the NervesKey. Various parameters are mapped into the slot ID according to the table below:

Slot range I2C bus Bus address Certificate
0-15 slot 0x60 Primary or auxiliary

On Linux, the I2C bus number in the table above determines the device file. For example, a bus number of "1" maps to /dev/i2c-1. NervesKey devices support a primary and auxiliary set of certificates. Normally only the primary device certificate is used. Under some conditions, it's useful to write a second set of certificates to the device and those can be referenced by using the "Auxiliary" rows in the table. This library currently need to differentiate between primary and auxiliary certificates so that's not represented in the slot ID. It may be in the future.

The PKCS #11 URI for addressing the desired NervesKey has the form:


OpenSSL integration

To use this with OpenSSL, you'll need This library comes from OpenSC's libp11 and can be installed on Debian systems by running:

sudo apt install libengine-pkcs11-openssl1.1

Invocation from Erlang and Elixir

Erlang's crypto application provides an API for loading OpenSSL engines. See the Erlang crypto User's Guide for details on this feature. NervesKey.PKCS11.load_engine/0 is a helper method to make the :crypto.engine_load/3 call for you. It uses OpenSSL's dynamic engine to load which in turn loads this PKCS #11 implementation. Here's an example call in Elixir:

{:ok, engine} = NervesKey.PKCS11.load_engine()

If this doesn't work, you'll likely have to look at the implementation of load_engine/0 and fine tune the shared library paths or control commands.

After you load the engine, you'll eventually want to use it. The intended use case is for delegate the ECDSA operation to the ATECC508A for use with TLS connections. You'll need to obtain the X.509 certificate that corresponds to the private key held in the ATECC508A through some mechanism. Then in your SSL options, you'll have something like this:

  key: NervesKey.PKCS11.private_key(engine, i2c: 1),
  certfile: "device-cert.pem",

The NervesKey.PKCS11.private_key/2 helper method will create the appropriate map so that Erlang's :crypto library can properly call into OpenSSL.

Sharing the NervesKey

If you have other code using the NervesKey, it might conflict with this library. There's no lock file or mechanism to keep more than one process from accessing the ATECC508A chip simultaneously. This is not expected to be an issue at runtime since the main reason to access the NervesKey in another process is to provision it and that's not something one would do when trying to use this library to assist a TLS negotiation.


The Elixir and most C code is licensed under the 2-Clause BSD License.

The header file for the PKCS #11 function prototypes and structures, pkcs11.h, has the following license:

/* pkcs11.h
   Copyright 2006, 2007 g10 Code GmbH
   Copyright 2006 Andreas Jellinghaus

   This file is free software; as a special exception the author gives
   unlimited permission to copy and/or distribute it, with or without
   modifications, as long as this notice is preserved.

   This file is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but
   WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law; without even
   PURPOSE.  */


PKCS #11 module for using the NervesKey




No packages published