Asylo 0.3.0 Release

Hardware support and other enhancements

Today, we’re excited to announce version 0.3.0 of Asylo, which introduces support for Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX) hardware enclaves. Now, in addition to enclaves simulated in software, application developers can use Asylo to build applications that leverage the security properties of SGX in a portable, vendor-agnostic way. In the 0.3.0 release, Asylo has also been updated to use version 2.3 of Intel’s SGX SDK, which includes some mitigations for the widely publicized Spectre and Meltdown CPU vulnerabilities.

The recently-disclosed Foreshadow SGX vulnerabilities, while mitigated by the SGX SDK update to some extent, highlight the importance of a vendor-agnostic and technology-agnostic approach to secure-system development. As new technologies prove themselves in the real world, engineers building secure systems have the freedom and agility to adopt the best technology for their requirements.

This flexibility is possible with Asylo because the POSIX layer and the application-programming model are built on top of backend-agnostic primitives. A core objective of the Asylo framework is to provide a low-friction way of changing an application’s enclave backend, without ever having to deal with backend-specific features. Our goal is to make switching between backend technologies require as few changes as possible to the application source code, as this reduces the possibility of subtle bugs/vulnerabilities introduced by code rewrites.

Asylo’s added support for SGX hardware should not be construed as a substitute for users’ own diligence. While SGX is an exciting technology, the side-channel attacks that have emerged in recent months may make SGX on its own an unacceptable backend for some applications. Every security technology has its strengths and weaknesses, and these aspects should be evaluated by the enclave user. Asylo’s support for SGX should not be interpreted as an endorsement of SGX or any of its claims. Asylo provides a uniform technology stack and programming model across a range of isolation technologies, but the Asylo team is not able to determine the suitability of any particular technology with respect to an application’s security requirements.

Finally, the Asylo team recommends using defense-in-depth measures to protect sensitive applications. Running an application inside an enclave should be viewed as an additional layer of defense, rather than as a substitute for OS and machine security.