Code Sample: Intel® Software Guard Extensions Remote Attestation End-to-End Example

ID 671688
Updated 7/4/2018
Version Latest



File(s): Download
License: Intel Sample Source Code License Agreement
Optimized for...  
Operating System: Windows® 10, Linux*
Hardware: 6th gen Intel® Core™ or later, Intel® Xeon® E3 v6
(Programming Language, tool, IDE, Framework)
Windows*: Microsoft Visual Studio* 2015 Professional Edition or later, Intel® Software Guard Extensions SDK for Windows* (Intel® SGX SDK for Windows*)
Linux*: gcc, Intel® Software Guard Extensions SDK for Linux* (Intel® SGX SDK for Linux*)
All platforms: libcurl, OpenSSL* 1.1.0
Prerequisites: C/C++ programming


Today's real-world applications are increasingly tasked with handling sensitive data. A user's authentication credentials, confidential documents, or highly valued intellectual property are all examples of information that must be kept safe from exposure and disclosure to unwanted parties. Because security breaches can cause significant damage to a company's finances and reputation, there is strong demand for developing applications with the ability to guard and protect their secrets. Recent advances in hardware and software security are giving developers a number of tools and technologies to choose from in order to achieve this goal.

Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel® SGX) Mission

One such technology is Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel® SGX), which became available with the introduction of 6th-generation Intel® Core™ processors. Intel SGX allows an application to control its own security by creating guarded enclaves within the application space that are not vulnerable to inspection by malicious actors—even when attacks originate from privileged software, whether that be a compromised operating system, a virtual memory manager, or device drivers.

Intel Software Guard Extensions protection model
Figure 1. Intel® Software Guard Extensions (Intel® SGX) protection model

This article assumes that the reader is familiar with the basic concepts of Intel SGX technology. To learn more about it, please visit the Intel SGX landing zone.

Provisioning Secrets with Remote Attestation

***November 2023 Update***: Please click here for important information about the future availability of the Intel® Software Guard Extensions Attestation Service Utilizing Intel® EPID

Utilizing Intel SGX in conjunction with other modern software and hardware technologies can help an application achieve the best possible protection for its existing secrets. But that's not the end of the story—those secrets are still vulnerable while in transit. Software vendors face a common problem that is difficult to address: How does the application obtain the secrets in the first place?

In some cases, a user may be asked to supply that information, but in the absence of trusted input/output on the platform, that input may be leaked to malware. Other sensitive content, such as media protected by digital rights management (DRM), may not even be user generated at all. This class of content may originate from a remote server, and even there, vulnerabilities abound: While the communication path between client and server may be encrypted, there is no guarantee that the client machine has not been compromised by malware.

These vulnerabilities make it potentially dangerous to trust the client machine with sensitive data. However, an advanced feature of Intel SGX called Remote Attestation can significantly increase the level of trust afforded to the client.

Using the Remote Attestation flow, a client's enclave can attest to a remote entity that it is trusted, and establish an authenticated communication channel with that entity. As part of attestation, the client's enclave proves the following:

  • Its identity
  • That it has not been tampered with
  • That it is running on a genuine platform with Intel SGX enabled
  • That it is running at the latest security level, also referred to as the Trusted Computing Base (TCB) level

At that point, the remote server can safely provision secrets to the enclave.

Remote Attestation at a glance
Figure 2. Remote Attestation at a glance

The rest of this article will focus on describing the Remote Attestation flow in detail through a new, end-to-end code sample that was developed at Intel. There are several reasons why this new sample was created:

  • As shown in Figure 2, there are multiple components to Remote Attestation. After seeing the complete attestation flow in action, developers should have a clear understanding of how those components communicate with each other.
  • While the Intel SGX SDK provides convenient wrappers for the entire attestation flow, including encapsulating cryptographic functionality, no such convenience exists for implementing the remote service provider. This sample shows how to create a service provider capable of facilitating Remote Attestation with a client, utilizing cryptographic routines from the OpenSSL* libraries.
  • The server also communicates with the Intel® Attestation Service (IAS) to perform the actual enclave verification. The sample code demonstrates the IAS APIs used when performing attestation. Please refer to the Intel Attestation Service API document for details.
  • The sample has been reduced to the bare minimum number of components necessary to implement a Remote Attestation flow with a thin client-server protocol layer. This allows developers to more easily focus on, and isolate, the Remote Attestation procedure.

Remote Attestation Flow


In order to utilize the Intel IAS for Remote Attestation, Intel requires that the independent software vendor (ISV) obtain API keys from the Intel® SGX Attestation Service Utilizing Enhanced Privacy ID (EPID). (The older, certificate-based authentication will continue to be supported on the production server in order to minimize disruption to existing customers and there is no EOL date at this time.)

You can choose use either a linkable or unlinkable attestation policy. A linkable policy allows the ISV to determine whether multiple attestation requests originated from the same platform. Though this does not identify the individual platform, it does allow the ISV to determine whether multiple requests originated from the same platform.

The ISV will be issued a service provider ID (SPID) along with their API keys. This ID is used by the service provider when communicating with IAS, as described later.

Client-Server protocol

Remote Attestation utilizes a modified Sigma protocol to facilitate a Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange (DHKE) between the client and the server. The shared key obtained from this exchange can be used by the service provider to encrypt secrets to be provisioned to the client. The client enclave is able to derive the same key and use it to decrypt the secret.

Communication sequence

Provisioning request

The first step in Remote Attestation involves the client asking the service provider to provision secrets. This is usually a specific API endpoint that the service provider implements for making such a request. The service provider responds to this request by issuing a challenge requesting the client to attest itself.

The details of this handshake are left up to the ISV implementing its service.

Msg0 (client to server)

In response to the challenge request, the client performs several steps to construct the initial message of the Remote Attestation flow. Assuming the client's enclave has already been initialized, the untrusted code takes the following steps.

  1. Execute an ECALL to enter the enclave
  2. Inside the enclave:
    1. Call sgx_ra_init()
    2. Return the result and the DHKE context parameter to the untrusted application
  3. Call sgx_get_extended_epid_group_id()

The function sgx_ra_init() accepts the service provider's public key as an argument and returns an opaque context for the DHKE that will occur during Remote Attestation. Using a context that is opaque to the client provides replay protection.

The format of the public key is set by the sgx_ec25_public_t data type in sgx_tcrypto.h. The EC key is represented as its x coordinate followed by its y coordinate:

typedef struct _sgx_ec256_public_t
    uint8_t gx[SGX_ECP256_KEY_SIZE];
    uint8_t gy[SGX_ECP256_KEY_SIZE];
} sgx_ec256_public_t;

These key coordinates must be in little-endian byte order.

The Service Provider's public key should be hardcoded into the enclave. This, combined with enclave signing, ensures that the key cannot be changed by end users so that the enclave can only communicate with the intended remote service.

If the enclave needs to access Platform Services, then the Platform Services Enclave (PSE) must be included in the attestation sequence. The PSE is an architectural enclave included in the Intel SGX software package that supplies services for trusted time and a monotonic counter. These can be used for replay protection during nonce generation and for securely calculating the length of time for which a secret should be valid.

To use the PSE, the procedure becomes:

  1. Execute an ECALL to enter the enclave
  2. Inside the enclave, perform these steps (in order):
    1. sgx_create_pse_session()
    2. sgx_ra_init()
    3. sgx_close_pse_session()
    4. Return the results and the DHKE context parameter to the untrusted application
  3. Call sgx_get_extended_epid_group_id()

Note that enclaves running on server hardware do not have a Platform Services Enclave, and cannot utilize client specific features.

Regardless of whether or not the enclave makes use of Platform Services, it is up to the enclave writer to expose a wrapper function for the ECALL that executes sgx_ra_init() sgx_ra_init()

Upon a successful result from sgx_ra_init(), the client next makes a call to sgx_get_extended_epid_group_id() to retrieve the extended group ID (GID) of the Intel® Enhanced Privacy ID (Intel® EPID). Intel EPID is an anonymous signature scheme used for identification. A detailed discussion of Intel EPID is beyond the scope of this article; interested users can consult the following resource: Intel SGX: EPID Provisioning and Attestation Services.

The extended GID is sent to the service provider as the body of msg0. The format of msg0 and details of the response from the server are left up to the service provider. However, the service provider must verify that the GID it received is supported and abort the attestation process if it is not. The Intel Attestation Service only supports the value of zero for the extended GID.

Msg0 and msg1 (see below) may optionally be sent together.

Msg1 (client to server)

Given a successful response to msg0, or if msg0 is to be sent in conjunction with msg1, the client calls the sgx_ra_get_msg1() function to construct the msg1 object containing the client's public key for the DHKE and sends it to the service provider. Additional parameters to this method include the DHKE context obtained in the previous step and a pointer to the sgx_ra_get_ga() stub function for computing the client-side DHKE secret. This function is automatically generated by the SDK when the enclave developer links in the sgx_tkey_exchange library and imports sgx_tkey_exchange.edl in the Enclave Definition Language (EDL) file.

The format of msg1 is given in Table 1.

Table 1. Structure of msg1

Element Size
Ga Gax 32 bytes
Gay 32 bytes
Intel® EPID GID 4 bytes

The Intel SGX SDK defines the data structure for msg1 in sgx_key_exchange.h:

typedef struct _ra_msg1_t
    sgx_ec256_public_t   g_a;
    sgx_epid_group_id_t  gid;
} sgx_ra_msg1_t;

All components of msg1 are in little-endian byte order. The client function sgx_ra_get_msg1() returns msg1 with all elements in the correct byte order. The service provider, however, must convert the values from little-endian order when processing msg1.

Msg2 (server to client)

Upon receiving msg1 from the client, the service provider checks the values in the request, generates its own DHKE parameter, and sends a query to the IAS to retrieve the Signature Revocation List (SigRL) for the Intel EPID GID sent by the client.

To process msg1 and generate msg2, the service provider follows these steps:

  1. Generate a random EC key using the P-256 curve. This key will become Gb.
  2. Derive the key derivation key (KDK) from Ga and Gb:
    1. Compute the shared secret using the client's public session key, Ga, and the service provider's private session key (obtained from Step 1), Gb. The result of this operation will be the x coordinate of Gab, denoted as Gabx.
    2. Convert Gabx to little-endian byte order by reversing its bytes.
    3. Perform an AES-128 CMAC on the little-endian form of Gabx using a block of 0x00 bytes for the key.
    4. The result of 2.3 is the KDK.
  3. Derive the SMK from the KDK by performing an AES-128 CMAC on the byte sequence:

0x01 || SMK || 0x00 || 0x80 || 0x00

using the KDK as the key. Note that || denotes concatenation and “SMK” is a literal string (without quotes).

  1. Determine the quote type that should be requested from the client (0x0 for unlinkable, and 0x1 for linkable). Note that this is a service provider policy decision, and the SPID must be associated with the correct quote type.
  2. Set the KDF_ID. Normally this is 0x1.
  3. Calculate the ECDSA signature of:
    Gbx || Gby || Gax || Gay

    (traditionally written as r || s) with the service provider's EC private key.

  4. Calculate the AES-128 CMAC of:
    Gb || SPID || Quote_Type || KDF_ID || SigSP

    using the SMK (derived in Step 3) as the key.

  5. Query IAS to obtain the SigRL for the client's Intel EPID GID.

The format of msg2 is shown in Table 1.

Table 2. Structure of msg2

Element Size
A Gb Gbx 32 bytes
Gby 32 bytes
SPID 16 bytes
Quote_Type 2 bytes (uint16_t)
KDF_ID bytes (uint16_t)
SigSP Sig(Gb_Ga)x 32 bytes
Sig(Gb_Ga)y 32 bytes
CMACSMK(A) 16 bytes
SigRL SigRL_Size 4 bytes (uint32_t)
SigRL_data SigRL_Size bytes

As a reminder, the unsigned integer values (Quote_Type, KDF_ID, and SigRL_Size), the x and y coordinates of SigSP, and the x and y coordinates of Gb must be in little-endian byte order.

The Intel SGX SDK defines a data structure for msg2 in sgx_key_exchange.h:

typedef struct _ra_msg2_t
    sgx_ec256_public_t       g_b;
    sgx_spid_t               spid;
    uint16_t                 quote_type;
    uint16_t                 kdf_id;
    sgx_ec256_signature_t    sign_gb_ga;
    sgx_mac_t                mac;
    uint32_t                 sig_rl_size;
    uint8_t                  sig_rl[];
} sgx_ra_msg2_t;

Again, refer to the Intel EPID article resource mentioned in the Msg0 section for a detailed explanation of the SigRL. This service provider's public key and the SigRL information is packaged into msg2 and sent to the client in response to the msg1 request.

Msg3 (client to server)

On the client side, when msg2 is received the application calls the sgx_ra_proc_msg2() function to generate msg3. This call performs the following tasks:

  • Verifies the service provider signature.
  • Checks the SigRL.
  • Returns msg3, which contains the quote used to attest that particular enclave.

Two of the parameters passed to sgx_ra_proc_msg2() are sgx_ra_proc_msg2_trusted and sgx_ra_get_msg3_trusted. These are pointers to functions that are automatically generated by the edger8r tool, which means your enclave project must do the following:

  • Link against the trusted service library (libsgx_tservice.a on Linux and sgx_tservice.lib on Windows)
  • Include the following in the trusted section of the encalve's EDL file:
include "sgx_tkey_exchange.h"

from "sgx_tkey_exchange.edl" import *;

Part of the processing perfromed by sgx_ra_get_msg2_trusted() is obtaining an enclave quote. The quote includes a cryptographic hash, or measurement, of the current running enclave which is signed with the platform's EPID key. Only the Intel Attestation Service can verify this signature. It also contains information about the platform services enclave (PSE) on the platform, which the IAS will also verify.

The structure of msg3 is given in Table 3.

Table 3. Structure of msg3.

Element Size
CMACSMK(M)   16 bytes
M Ga Gax 32 bytes
Gay 32 bytes
Ps_Security_Prop 256 bytes
Quote (436 + quote.signature_len) bytes

The Intel SGX SDK defines a data structure for msg3 in sgx_key_exchange.h:

typedef struct _ra_msg3_t
    sgx_mac_t                mac
    sgx_ec256_public_t       g_a;
    sgx_ps_sec_prop_desc_t   ps_sec_prop;
    uint8_t                  quote[];
} sgx_ra_msg3_t;

The structure of the quote is defined in sgx_quote.h:

typedef struct _quote_t
    uint16_t            version;        /* 0   */
    uint16_t            sign_type;      /* 2   */
    sgx_epid_group_id_t epid_group_id;  /* 4   */
    sgx_isv_svn_t       qe_svn;         /* 8   */
    sgx_isv_svn_t       pce_svn;        /* 10  */
    uint32_t            xeid;           /* 12  */
    sgx_basename_t      basename;       /* 16  */
    sgx_report_body_t   report_body;    /* 48  */
    uint32_t            signature_len;  /* 432 */
    uint8_t             signature[];    /* 436 */
} sgx_quote_t;

Msg4 (server to client)

Upon receiving msg3 from the client, the service provider must do the following, in order:

  1. Verify that Ga in msg3 matches Ga in msg1.
  2. Verify CMACSMK(M).
  3. Verify that the first 32-bytes of the report data match the SHA-256 digest of (Ga || Gb || VK), where || denotes concatenation. VK is derived by performing an AES-128 CMAC over the following byte sequence, using the KDK as the key:
    0x01 || "VK" || 0x00 || 0x80 || 0x00
  4. Verify the attestation evidence provided by the client.
    1. Extract the quote from msg3.
    2. Submit the quote to IAS, calling the API function to verify attestation evidence.
    3. Validate the signing certificate received in the report response.
    4. Validate the report signature using the signing certificate.
  5. If the quote is successfully validated in Step 3, perform the following:
    1. Extract the attestation status for the enclave and, if provided, the PSE.
    2. Examine the enclave identity (MRSIGNER), security version and product ID.
    3. Examine the debug attribute and ensure it is not set (in a production environment).
    4. Decide whether or not to trust the enclave and, if provided, the PSE.
  6. Derive the session keys, SK and MK, that should be used to transmit future messages between the client and server during the session. The client can simply call sgx_ra_get_keys(), but the server must derive them manually by performing an AES-128 CMAC over the following byte sequences, using the KDK as the key:
    MK: 0x01 || "MK" || 0x00 || 0x80 || 0x00
    SK: 0x01 || "SK" || 0x00 || 0x80 || 0x00
  7. Generate msg4 and send it to the client.

Verifying the attestation evidence requires that the service provider submit the quote to IAS and obtain an attestation report. This report is signed by the IAS Report Signing private key, and the service provider must validate this signature using the IAS Report Signing public key.

The report itself contains response headers and a payload that contains the attestation status for the enclave and PSE manifest. A value of “OK” means that the component can be trusted. Any other value means that the component is either untrusted, or trustable if certain actions are taken (such as a software or BIOS update). Please refer to the IAS API document for full details. It is up to the ISV to pass these status messages on to the client.

If the attestation status is not "OK", the IAS may optionally send a Platform Info Blob (PIB), which the service provider may choose to forward to the client. The client can pass the PIB to the sgx_report_attestation_status() function to obtain more detailed information about the failure.

The format of msg4 is up to the service provider. It must, at minimum, contain:

  • Whether or not the enclave is trusted.
  • Whether or not the PSE manifest is trusted, if a PSE manifest was submitted.

It may optionally contain:

  • The PIB, if present.
  • Secrets to provision to the enclave. Any secrets should be encrypted using a key derived from the KDK (see msg2).
  • An enclave re-attestation timeout.
  • The current time.
  • Public keys of other servers the client needs to trust.

Figure 3 shows the full Remote Attestation flow, as described in the previous sections:

Full Remote Attestation flow

Figure 3. Full Remote Attestation flow.

Sample Code

The provided code sample includes both a client and service provider (server) component to demonstrate the concepts explained in this article. The code has been built and tested under:

  • Ubuntu* Linux* 16.04
  • Ubuntu* Linux* 18.04
  • CentOS* Linux 7.5
  • Windows® 10 64-bit with Microsoft Visual Studio* 2015 Professional Edition

This code is made available under the terms of the Intel Sample Source Code license.

Runtime Requirements


To successfully execute the client, it must be run on a system that supports Intel SGX and Intel SGX must be enabled. This means that the Intel SGX Platform Software package must be installed.

On Linux, the client must also have:

  • OpenSSL 1.1.0. This sample was tested using OpenSSL 1.1.0h, built from source

    On Windows*, the client must also have:

  • OpenSSL 1.1.0 64-bit for Windows. The sample was tested using the Win64 OpenSSL 1.1.0h (the full, not the light) distribution from Shining Light Productions


The server does not require Intel SGX (though building the server depends on header files from the Intel SGX SDK; see below).

On Linux, the server system requires:

  • OpenSSL 1.1.0 (see the client requirements)
  • One (or both) of the following packages from your Linux distribution
    • libcurl
    • wget

On Windows, the server must have:

  • OpenSSL 1.1.0 64-bit for Windows (see the client requirements)

Build Requirements

Whether you build the client or server on Linux or Windows, the build system must have the Intel SGX SDK.


On Linux, building the client requires:

  • GNU Automake*
  • gcc and g++
  • OpenSSL 1.1.0 (see the runtime requirements) and headers

On Windows, building the client requires:

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 (Professional Edition or greater)
  • OpenSSL 1.1.0 64-bit for Windows (see the runtime requirements) and headers


On Linux, building the server requires:

  • GNU Automake
  • gcc and g++
  • OpenSSL 1.1.0 (see the runtime requirements) and development headers
  • (Optional) libcurl libraries and development headers (built against either Network Security Services or OpenSSL 1.0.x)

On Windows, building the server requires:

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 (Professional Edition or greater)
  • OpenSSL 1.1.0 64-bit for Windows (see the runtime requirements) and headers

Running the Samples

The sample applications are a very simple client and server. By default, the server listens on port 7777 and the client connects to port 7777 on localhost. They are executed via wrapper scripts named run-server and run-client (shell scripts on Linux, and batch/CMD files on Windows) that parse the settings file and supply the necessary command-line arguments to the underlying executables, client and sp.

Simple usage is:

run-server [ options ] [ port ]
run-client [ options ] [ host:[port] ]

By supplying the -z option, you can force both the client and server to run in interactive mode. In this mode, they output their messages to stdout and take input on stdin. Thus, you can copy output from the client and paste it to the server, and vice versa. This allows you to see the attestation process one step at a time (as well as communicate between a client and server that may not have direct network access to one another).

The settings file is heavily documented. It, too, uses the shell syntax on Linux and the batch/CMD syntax on Windows.

Both the client and server generate log files (client.log and sp.log in the current directory) of the session. They also support a verbose and debug mode (settable via the settings, or using -v and -d, respectively).

Note that the server is very simplistic: it processes one connection at a time, serially. The communication protocol is a clear-text, raw transmission of the messages, encoded in base 16 (hex strings) for readability. There is minimal error checking on the client-server communication. The emphasis in this sample is on the Remote Attestation procedures, and it's assumed that service providers in real-world applications will use their existing infrastructure (for example, a representational state transfer (REST)-based service) to manage the protocol details.

Further Reading

Interested readers should take advantage of the following Intel SGX resources available on the Intel Developer Zone:

Intel SGX Homepage. Contains links to the SDK landing page (see below), access to the development services, an online user's guide, and the resources library. The latter is a treasure trove of informational articles and blog posts about Intel SGX. Some of the more useful are:

Intel SGX: EPID Provisioning and Attestation Services

Innovative Technology for CPU Based Attestation and Sealing

Intel SGX Product Licensing

Intel SGX Attestation Signature Policy

Intel SGX SDK Landing Page. Here you will find links to download the Intel SGX SDK and platform software. Also check out the FAQ section for answers to a number of common questions as well as additional useful resource links.