SCONE: Secure Linux Containers with Intel SGX


Sergei Arnautov, Bohdan Trach, Franz Gregor, Thomas Knauth, and Andre Martin, Technische Universität Dresden; Christian Priebe, Joshua Lind, Divya Muthukumaran, Dan O'Keeffe, and Mark L Stillwell, Imperial College London; David Goltzsche, Technische Universität Braunschweig; Dave Eyers, University of Otago; Rüdiger Kapitza, Technische Universität Braunschweig; Peter Pietzuch, Imperial College London; Christof Fetzer, Technische Universität Dresden


In multi-tenant environments, Linux containers managed by Docker or Kubernetes have a lower resource footprint, faster startup times, and higher I/O performance compared to virtual machines (VMs) on hypervisors. Yet their weaker isolation guarantees, enforced through software kernel mechanisms, make it easier for attackers to compromise the confidentiality and integrity of application data within containers.

We describe SCONE, a secure container mechanism for Docker that uses the SGX trusted execution support of Intel CPUs to protect container processes from outside attacks. The design of SCONE leads to (i) a small trusted computing base (TCB) and (ii) a low performance overhead: SCONE offers a secure C standard library interface that transparently encrypts/decrypts I/O data; to reduce the performance impact of thread synchronization and system calls within SGX enclaves, SCONE supports user-level threading and asynchronous system calls. Our evaluation shows that it protects unmodified applications with SGX, achieving 0.6x–1.2x of native throughput.

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@inproceedings {199364,
author = {Sergei Arnautov and Bohdan Trach and Franz Gregor and Thomas Knauth and Andre Martin and Christian Priebe and Joshua Lind and Divya Muthukumaran and Dan O{\textquoteright}Keeffe and Mark L. Stillwell and David Goltzsche and Dave Eyers and R{\"u}diger Kapitza and Peter Pietzuch and Christof Fetzer},
title = {{SCONE}: Secure Linux Containers with Intel {SGX}},
booktitle = {12th {USENIX} Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation ({OSDI} 16)},
year = {2016},
isbn = {978-1-931971-33-1},
address = {Savannah, GA},
pages = {689--703},
url = {},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},