Enclaves must be signed in order to be loaded. This section covers:
- Why is signing required
- Who can sign enclaves
- How to sign your enclaves
Why is signing required?¶
Signing requirements are a part of the Intel SGX architecture. The enclave signature is used for two different purposes:
- Linking different enclave versions together into an upgrade path, so new enclaves can decrypt data stored by or sent to old enclaves.
- Authorising which enclaves can be executed on a host.
Restricting which enclaves can launch on a host ensures that datacenter providers aren't hosting server processes they can't examine or turn over to law enforcement. It also makes it harder for people to write malware with un-debuggable cores, and is part of the privacy (anti-tracking) infrastructure in SGX.
Using signatures to link binaries into a single upgrade path is the same technique used by Android and iOS to move permissions and stored data from old to new apps.
Signing is also used to authorise which enclaves can start. By default Intel chips won't start an enclave unless it's signed by an Intel key, but this behaviour can be changed and on Azure (see "Deploying to Azure") enclaves can be self-signed. If you want to use older hardware getting whitelisted by Intel is free and can be done quickly. It's a similar process to getting an SSL certificate but using different tools.
On Xeon E CPUs with Intel FLC support in the chipset, and a recent enough kernel driver, the owner can add their own whitelisting authorities via BIOS/UEFI firmware settings. This means they can replace the default "must be approved by Intel" launch control logic with their own (which may e.g. only allow their own enclaves, or may allow any self-signed enclave).
How to sign your enclaves¶
Signing keys for simulation and debug enclaves¶
It is not necessary to use a whitelisted signature for enclaves built in simulation and debug modes. However, it is still required that these enclaves are signed. Conclave supports the generation of a dummy key during the build process that can be used for signing simulation and debug enclaves.
Obtaining a signing key for release enclaves¶
Firstly, get a commercial license. This is a lightweight process and doesn't cost anything or impose other requirements. Following the instructions provided on that page should allow you to get a signing key.
It's up to you whether or not to store the key in an HSM.
There are three different configurations available for signing enclaves using Conclave:
- Using a dummy key
- Using a private key
- Using an external process such as a signing service or HSM
Dummy keys are only useful for signing simulation and debug enclaves. A release enclave signed with a dummy key will not be whitelisted on any platform so will not be allowed to load.
A private key can be used to sign enclaves directly within the build process. The key must be accessible on the filesystem of the machine building the enclave.
An external process is used when the signing key is not available on the machine building the enclave, or a manual or air-gapped process is required to sign the enclave. In this case the Conclave project is built in two steps. The first step generates the material to be signed. The second step provides the signed material to the Conclave build to continue and complete the build process.
How to configure signing for your enclaves¶
The signing method used by your enclaves is configured in the
build.gradle file for your enclave project. You can
specify different signing settings for simulation, debug and release in the same project.
The signing configuration is specified inside the relevant enclave type inside the conclave configuration. For example:
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For simulation and debug enclaves
signingType defaults to
dummyKey so the configuration can be
Release enclaves default to having a
externalKey so the configuration parameters for the
external signing type must be specified. Alternatively the
signingType can be changed to a different type.
Changing the signing type of a release enclave to
dummyKey will result in an enclave that cannot be
used as it will never be whitelisted on an SGX platform.
The configuration consists of a set of properties which depend on the signing type.
|signingType||Must be set to
|signingType||Must be set to
|signingKey||The file that contains the private key to use when signing the enclave. This can be an absolute path or relative to the enclave project directory.|
|signingType||Must be set to
|signatureDate||Specifies the date to be embedded in the material generated in the first stage of the external key signing process.|
|signingMaterial||The file that that Conclave will generate when preparing an enclave for signing in the first stage of the external key signing process. The resulting file needs to be signed by the external signing process. This can be an absolute path or relative to the enclave project directory. If this is omitted then the default filename of
|mrsignerPublicSignature||Used in the second part of the external key process to specify the file containing the signature generated by the external signing process. This can be an absolute path or relative to the enclave project directory.|
|mrsignerPublicKey||Used in the second part of the external key process to specify the file containing the public part of the key that was used to externally sign the signing material. This can be an absolute path or relative to the enclave project directory.|
Generating keys for signing an enclave¶
externalKey signing types you can create your own keys
for testing or production:
Creating an RSA private key suitable for signing enclaves¶
The generated key can be used to sign enclaves using the
externalKey signing types.
When using the
externalKey type you will need to generate the public key from the private key.
Creating a password protected RSA private key suitable for signing enclaves¶
The generated key can only be used for the
externalKey signing type as it prompts for a password during
Obtaining the public key from a private key¶
The public key is required for the
externalKey signing type.
Building a signed enclave¶
Signing is performed automatically during the build process when using a dummy or private key.
Additional steps are required when using an external key.
prepareForSigning task to the host
This is an optional but recommended step to create a more consistent calling convention for invoking Gradle. It adds a Gradle task that can be called regardless of the build type of the enclave.
Add the following code to your host
build.gradle file. This adds a new Gradle task that
can be used to generate the material that will be signed by the external signing process.
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The task works by using the
mode Gradle property, which is set to one of
depending on which enclave type is currently being built, to set a dependency on the relevant Conclave task that generates
the signing material.
The task makes the following two Gradle invocations equivalent:
See the tutorial and the
hello-world sample in the Conclave SDK for an example of this configuration.
Generate the signing material¶
Invoke Gradle to generate the files that need to be signed by the external signing process.
The output of this stage is a file that contains the material to be signed in
Sign the material¶
Perform the required steps to manually sign the file generated in the previous step. This might require copying the file onto a different platform or onto an HSM to generate the signed file.
As an example, given a private key the following command can be used to sign the file:
Once completed, copy the signed file and the public key back onto the build system into the location specified in the
mrsignerPublicKey properties in the enclave signing configuration.
Complete the build¶
Invoke Gradle to complete the build.