Intel SGX hardware release enclaves


This is a step-by-step guide on how to use Asylo to produce and launch a release enclave for the Intel SGX hardware backend. A release enclave may be run in release mode, which disables inspection of the enclave’s memory (e.g., by a debugger) at a hardware level. Note that launching an SGX hardware enclave requires that the user possesses an Intel-allowlisted enclave-signing key1.

This guide is suitable for users of the Asylo Docker image, as well as users that followed the manual installation instructions for Asylo and its dependencies.


Asylo provides utilities that make development and deployment of debug enclaves simple. The process of building and signing a release enclave is more involved since signing keys are typically stored in an isolated, offline signing facility that is inaccessible from standard development flows2. For this reason, the process of building the enclave, signing the enclave, and combining the enclave with the signature are broken into separate steps.

The high-level steps of this process are:

  1. Define your enclave targets to explicitly produce their signing material and incorporate a signature (made in step 3) of it into a final signed enclave binary.

  2. Build the enclave signing material target to get the file to sign.

  3. Sign the enclave material with an enclave-signing key.

  4. Build the enclave target with the incorporated signature.

Steps 1 and 3 are supported by Asylo build rules.

Step 0: Setup

WORKSPACE configuration

Add the following to your project’s WORKSPACE file to import Asylo and enable Asylo’s Bazel extensions to the Intel SGX SDK:

    name = "com_google_asylo",
    urls = ["<version>.tar.gz"],
    strip_prefix = "asylo-<version>",
    sha256 = "<insert hash here>",

load("@com_google_asylo//asylo/bazel:sgx_deps.bzl", "sgx_deps")

Note: SGX hardware support is available in Asylo since v0.3.0.

Asylo Docker image users only

Set up up an environment variable that points to the root of your project’s source tree. This must be a Bazel workspace.

# Set this to your project's source tree.

Step 1: Define the enclave and release configuration

Define the enclave in your BUILD file using the sgx_unsigned_enclave, sgx_generate_enclave_signing_material, and sgx_signed_enclave rules.

load("@com_google_asylo//asylo/bazel:sgx_rules.bzl", "sgx_cc_unsigned_enclave")
load("@linux_sgx//:sgx_sdk.bzl", "sgx")

  name = "",

    name = "enclave_signing_material",
    config = ":release_config",
    unsigned = "",

    name = "",
    public_key = "",
    signature = "enclave_signing_material.dat.sig",
    signing_material = ":enclave_signing_material",

In addition to the sources for the enclave, these rules depend on two extra files:

  1. Your public key (example must be in your source tree as a PEM file or a Bazel target that produces a PEM file.

  2. The file containing a signature over your enclave’s signing material. The file must be present within this package. See step 3 for how to generate this file. This allows the signed enclave binary to be fully reproducible from the specific code snapshot at which it was signed.

The three rules have the following purposes:

  • sgx_cc_unsigned_enclave produces a cc_binary library object built with the Asylo toolchain. This binary will be used to produce the signed release enclave.
  • sgx.generate_enclave_signing_material extracts the parts of the SGX sigstruct (see Intel documentation) that must be signed from and the provided config. This material is produced using the gendata command of Intel’s enclave signing tool.
  • sgx.signed_enclave integrates the unsigned enclave with the config, signing material, and signature of the signing material to produce a signed enclave. The public key is required for validation of the final signature.

The config field for the latter two rules specifies security-critical configuration bits for the enclave, and thus must be signed. For example, the configuration can disallow running the enclave in debug mode (i.e. disable_debug = true). A custom configuration can be defined with the sgx_enclave_configuration rule, a Bazel wrapper around the Enclave Configuration File detailed in Intel’s developer reference materials. Below is a sample configuration that disallows running an enclave in debug mode:

load("@linux_sgx//:sgx_sdk.bzl", "sgx")

  name = "release_config",
  disable_debug = "1",
  prodid = "0",
  isvsvn = "0"

Refer to Intel’s developer guide for information on the ISVPRODID and ISVSVN values, which are denoted by the prodid and isvsvn parameters respectively in the configuration above.

Step 2: Get the unsigned enclave’s signing material built using the Asylo toolchain

When you build the signing material target with the appropriate build flags, it will build the unsigned enclave target and extract the signing material into a file.

The following commands illustrate how to produce enclave signing material (in this case //package/path:enclave_signing_material). The enclave build command can be invoked with any additional desired flags (e.g., -c opt for optimization). Your project’s .bazelrc is required to contain the Asylo config aliases from Asylo’s .bazelrc.

# Prepare a temporary workspace.
RELEASE_DIR="$(mktemp --directory --tmpdir=/tmp)"

# Choose one of the following:
# [A] For users of Asylo Docker image.
DOCKER="docker run --rm \
  -v bazel-cache:/root/.cache/bazel \
  -v "${MY_PROJECT}":/opt/my-project \
  -v "${RELEASE_DIR}":"${RELEASE_DIR}" \
  -w /opt/my-project \"
BAZEL="${DOCKER} bazel"
CP="${DOCKER} cp"
# [B] For users that manually installed Asylo and its dependencies.

# Build the signing material target.
${BAZEL} build //package/path:enclave_signing_material_sgx_hw

# Copy out the generated signing material in order to sign it.
${CP} "$(${BAZEL} info bazel-bin)/package/path/enclave_signing_material.dat" "${RELEASE_DIR}"

Step 3: Sign the release data

Bring a copy of "${RELEASE_DIR}/enclave_signing_material.dat" to your offline signing facility and sign it with your allowlisted private key. The exact steps required to produce the signature will depend on your key storage facility (e.g., an HSM). For OpenSSL usage, refer to Intel’s OpenSSL examples guide.

Step 4: Reincorporate the signed release data into the enclave binary

The final enclave binary,, can be produced once you have the signed signing material in your code tree. The example signature file is named enclave_signing_material.dat.sig. The sgx.signed_enclave rule combines all the necessary components for a signed enclave.

${BAZEL} build

Step 5: Launch the release enclave

To launch a release enclave, define a cc_binary target that encapsulates the loader logic. See the Asylo Quickstart Guide for a review of the Asylo APIs that can be used to invoke an enclave from an untrusted application.

The following example shows an invocation of a loader, //package/path:enclave_loader, that accepts the path of the enclave binary via a command-line flag (--enclave_path). Note that --@com_google_asylo_backend_provider//:backend=@linux_sgx//:asylo_sgx_hw must be passed to the Bazel command that builds the loader so that the SGX SDK is built for hardware mode. If using the Asylo Docker image on an SGX-enabled host, note that you can propagate the SGX capabilities from the host with the following Docker flags:

  • --device=/dev/isgx
  • -v /var/run/aesmd/aesm.socket:/var/run/aesmd/aesm.socket
# BAZEL must be redefined here for users of the Asylo Docker image.
DOCKER="docker run --rm --device=/dev/isgx \
  -v bazel-cache:/root/.cache/bazel \
  -v "${MY_PROJECT}":/opt/my-project \
  -v "${RELEASE_DIR}":"${RELEASE_DIR}" \
  -v /var/run/aesmd/aesm.socket:/var/run/aesmd/aesm.socket \
  -w /opt/my-project \"
BAZEL="${DOCKER} bazel"

${BAZEL} run --@com_google_asylo_backend_provider//:backend=@linux_sgx//:asylo_sgx_hw \
  //package/path:enclave_loader -- --enclave_path="${RELEASE_DIR}/"


  • To launch a release enclave, the private key that signed the enclave must be on Intel’s allowlist. You can get the latest version of the allowlist here. The allowlist must be installed on the machine as part of the PSW. The PSW may periodically contact the Internet to refresh the Intel key allowlist.
  • To run a release enclave built for the SGX hardware backend, you need access to SGX hardware.
  1. Unless configured to use Flexible Launch Control with a DCAP tree kernel driver, only users that have a commercial license agreement with Intel are authorized to run release mode Intel SGX enclaves via a allowlisted signing key. In release mode, the debug bit is unset, which means that enclave memory is guarded from inspection. Debug enclaves can have their memory inspected by attaching a debugger to the process. Users that wish to protect their secrets in production are thus advised to not deploy debug enclaves. 

  2. Refer to Intel’s recommendations for Safeguarding the Enclave Signing Key