NestedSGX: Bootstrapping Trust to Enclaves within Confidential VMs


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Integrity is critical for maintaining system security, as it ensures that only genuine software is loaded onto a machine. Although confidential virtual machines (CVMs) function within isolated environments separate from the host, it is important to recognize that users still encounter challenges in maintaining control over the integrity of the code running within the trusted execution environments (TEEs). The presence of a sophisticated operating system (OS) raises the possibility of dynamically creating and executing any code, making user applications within TEEs vulnerable to interference or tampering if the guest OS is compromised. This paper introduces NestedSGX, which leverages virtual machine privilege level (VMPL), a recent hardware feature available on AMD SEV-SNP to enable the creation of hardware enclaves within the guest VM. Similar to Intel SGX, NestedSGX considers the guest OS untrusted for loading potentially malicious code. It ensures that only trusted and measured code executed within the enclave can be remotely attested. To seamlessly protect existing applications, NestedSGX aims for compatibility with Intel SGX by simulating SGX leaf functions. We have also ported the SGX SDK to NestedSGX, enabling the use of existing SGX toolchains and applications in the system. Performance evaluations show that context switches in NestedSGX take about 35,000-37,000 cycles, approximately 2-3 times that of Intel SGX. NestedSGX incurs minimal overhead in most real-world applications, with an average overhead below 5
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