Subsystem Architecture

Subsystems are not the same as components. Subsystem may go across components to perform their functions. A subsystem is a service provider that performs one function or many functions, but does nothing until it is requested. This section describes the data flow of each subsystem in enough depth to fully illustrate how the system works.


First, for a node to become a worker eligible to run computations, it must first securely generate an Ethereum compliant ECC key-pair to be used as a persistent identity. This key-pair is generated inside an SGX enclave, and should never leave it. To persist across sessions, we will seal the key in the host’s system.

Once the key is generated, the enclave should generate a quote proving that the key-pair was generated properly inside the enclave. The enclave should then create, produce, and sign a quote. The quote is then verified with Intel and sent on-chain.

Now, everyone (whether it’s a user or some other stakeholder), can independently verify that this node’s identity is linked to an enclave. When dApp users request a computation task, they can run through the list on-chain and verify that all workers are legitimate, and cache a whitelist of these. Workers will be able to perform the same verification in future releases.

Registration Sequence Diagram

The registration protocol is defined as follows:

  1. The worker requests a quote from the enclave.
  2. The enclave generates a proving key-pair from which it produces and signs a quote. Then, Surface extracts the public key and the quote.
  3. Surface generates an address by hashing the public key. This is required in order to use the ECRecover method of Ethereum on-chain.
  4. Surface calls Enigma’s Attestation service to verify the quote. This service internally stores an SPID certificate. It passes the SPID and the quote to Intel’s Remote Attestation Server to request a report that formally verifies the quote (see Attestation for the verification flow of this report).
  5. Surface receives the report, then passes it along to the register function on the Enigma Contract with the address and the quote. The contract stores this data in a mapping where the key is the custodian address (i.e. the msg.sender of the transaction).
  6. From here-on, nodes will know that the prover address, which never leaves the enclave, is used to prove computations; whereas the custodian address is in charge of receiving payouts.

Client Encryption and Storage

At a high-level, the protocol ensures that data parameters can flow securely from a dApp to a secure enclave through Elliptic-curve Diffie–Hellman (ECDH), an anonymous key agreement protocol. This scheme allows both parties, each having an elliptic-curve public–private key pair, to establish a shared secret in an untrusted area.

Optionally, encrypted data can be stored in the state of a dApp smart contract on Ethereum. The Enigma Protocol ensures that an enclave can decrypt this data in context of a future computation task.

Encryption and Storage Sequence Diagram

In the encryption and storage protocol, functions of the Enigma Library help execute these instructions:

  1. Request the application key pair from the dApp config. In this development release, there is a single app key for all applications. In the future releases, each application will generate its own key pair.
  2. Request an encryption public key from the dApp config. Again, since this is a development release, the encryption key is simply a configuration parameter. All nodes in the network currently use the same encryption key pair. In future releases, encryption keys will be provided by the network. A key management protocol will control the lifecycle of the keys.
  3. Derive a new key from the dApp private key and the encryption key. Encrypting with this derived key will ensure that the selected enclave can decrypt the message, while proving that the message was encrypted by the dApp (and nothing else).
  4. Generate a random initialization vector (IV), then use it to encrypt the message with the derived key. The IV will be concatenated at the beginning of the encrypted message. The IV and message can later be easily extracted because the IV always contains 12 bytes.
  5. Depending on the use case, the encrypted message may or may not need to be stored in the world state. If the purpose of the message is to immediately serve as input to a transaction (and the transaction does not require any inputs stored on-chain), it can be sent directly to the Enigma Contract by requesting a computation task. As a general rule:
    1. If the encrypted message serves as input to an immediate transaction that does not have any other inputs stored encrypted in state, invoke to the Enigma Contract using web3.
    2. If the encrypted message must be stored for later or serve as an input to an immediate transaction along with other inputs stored encrypted in the state, use the dApp contract to broker the transaction.
  6. If the message must be used as input for future computation tasks, it can be stored as an attribute of the dApp contract. In this case, the dApp can use web3 to invoke a transaction function –foo(encryptedData) in the diagram. We assume that foo contains the instructions required to store the encrypted data in the dApp contract.

This Cryptography appendix reference describes the specific curves used for encryption and other cryptography related considerations.

Worker Selection

Sampling workers means that the entire Enigma network needs to reach an agreement about the identity of a given worker (or one or more groups of workers) at a given time. This sampling process happens once in every period, known as an epoch. The length of each epoch corresponds to a configurable number of blocks.

Worker Selection Sequence Diagram

The protocol for selecting a worker does the following for each epoch:

  1. The principal node uses SGX’s true random (i.e. sgx_read_rand) to generate a fresh random value (256-bit), which will later be used by the nodes as a seed.
  2. It passes this value to the untrusted peer app running on the principal’s host. The untrusted peer then commits it to the Enigma Contract.
  3. The Enigma Contract stores a mapping of: 1) the current block number; 2) the seed; 3) a an ordered list representing a snapshot of all active workers.
  4. The Enigma Contract emits a WorkersParameterized event. Every node in the network can observe this value, as they are all watching the chain.
  5. Now, every node can independently run a pseudo-randomness algorithm that selects the winning worker’s address for each computation task.
  6. When the contract receives a compute request, it generates a taskId. Then, it emits a ComputeTask event (see Computation).
  7. Upon receiving a computation task, each worker runs a pseudo-randomness algorithm to discover the selected worker. The input of the selectWorker function are: the seed; the taskId and the list of workers. Including the taskId ensures that a different worker is randomly selected for each computation task.
  8. Now, all nodes in the network know the address of the worker selected for the task. Only the selected worker executes the computation task.
  9. The selected worker commits the results on-chain including the block number that originated the task.
  10. The Enigma Contract retrieves the worker selection parameters corresponding to the block number submitted.
  11. The Enigma Contract re-runs the selectWorker pseudo-randomness algorithm to verify that the worker submitting the results is indeed the selected worker for the task. A greedy worker trying to compute more than its share of tasks would simply waste gas, as the unauthorized submissions get rejected by this verification method.

Random sampling is one of the most important primitives in the network. In later versions, this can be achieved by a distributed MPC algorithm, for this testnet it suffices to have a principal Enigma node that generates this kind of randomness.


When a worker executes a computation and signs its view (namely - H(input, code, output)) with its key, the user can be confident that these computations finished successfully – assuming the enclave is limited to only run computations inside the EVM and sign them. This is illustrated below.

Compute Sequence Diagram

This diagram assumes that callableArgs have been encrypted using the Client Encryption and Storage subsystem described above.

The computation protocol works as follows:

  1. The dApp users requests a computation tasks in one of the following ways (the choice usually depends on whether the dApp stores encrypted values in the state of its contract):
    1. Directly from the Enigma Contract by using web3 to invoke the compute function.
    2. By invoking a function of the dApp Contract that wraps the compute function of the Enigma Contract.
  2. The Enigma Contract locks the fee (more details below)
  3. The Enigma Contract emits a ComputeTask event. All nodes in the network will receive the event as they constantly monitor the chain.
  4. Surface receives a task and runs the lottery to determine if it should execute the task (more details in Worker Selection).
  5. If selected, Surface extracts the bytecode of the specified dappContractAddress and relays the call to Core.
  6. Core executes the computation which involves the following steps:
    1. Deserialize and decrypt the encrypted arguments (some arguments may not be encrypted)
    2. Run the preprocessors if any. Inject the preprocessor outputs as additional arguments of the computation function.
    3. Gather the bytecode with all inputs and pass them to SputnikVM which will run the specified function of the secret contract.
    4. Sign a hash of the original callableArgs, outputs and bytecode using the enclave private key.
  7. Surface receives the outputs and signature from Core. It relays them to the Enigma Contract along with the originating blockNumber, secretContract address and taskId using the commitResults function.
  8. The Enigma Contract verifies that the worker submitting the results 1) is the worker selected for the task; 2) did not tamper with the inputs; 3) computed the task in a secure enclave. This verification protocol is composed of the following steps.
    1. With the workers parameters of the block originating the task, run the pseudo-random worker selection algorithm. This ensures that the worker committing the results is the worker selected by the network.
    2. Compute a hash function with the task parameters stored prior to broadcasting the task to the network – which never left the contract so could not have been tampered with – and the results submitted by the worker.
    3. Compute Ethereum’s *ECRecover* function with the hash and the submitted signature. For a successful verification, this should return the signer address of the worker.

Payment of the Computation Fee

Computation fees (tokens) flow from dApp users to workers as follows:

  1. The dApp user calls the approve function of the ENG ERC20 contract to unlock a discretionary ENG payment for computing the task.
  2. The dApp user calls a payable function the dApp contract which wraps the compute() function (or the Enigma Contract directly as illustrated in the diagram).
  3. The Enigma Contract locks the fee in a mapping for which the key is the taskId.
  4. A worker is randomly selected to perform the task. In this release, it has no choice but to accept the computation fee proposed by the dApp user. In future releases, it will be free to decline, creating a market effect that dApp users will have to gauge in order to guess the optimal fee for their task.

5. Once the results are committed on-chain and passed the Enigma Contract verification steps, the fee is unlocked and transferred to the worker custodian wallet. This will also change in future releases, fees will be accumulated in each worker’s “bank” (mapping in the Enigma Contract). A withdrawal function will allow each worker to collect its accumulated rewards all at once.

Deserialization and Decryption

The arguments of the callable function are RLP serialized in the callableArgs parameter. Generally, at least one argument is encrypted but not necessarily all of them.

The protocol for deserializing and decrypting arguments works as follows:

  1. Deserialize callableArgs using RLP
  2. For each argument,
    1. Determine if the value is encrypted
    2. If encrypted, decrypt using the key derived from the encryption key and the dApp user public key.
    3. Since encrypted arguments were RLP encoded after encryption, their type was not stored in the RLP bytes. To cast the value, find its type from the callable function signature using its position in the deserialized list. For example, if the callable signature is foo(bytes,int8), and deserializing callableArgs result in [1, 00sdfsd0000sdfjsd9990sdf9jhe]; we know to cast the second argument as int8 after decryption.


A preprocessor is a static service that runs before executing the callable function in the EVM. The output of a preprocessor is injected in the parameters of the callable function. An array of preprocessors can be requested, each representing a function call: f(); where f is the name of the preprocessor function.

The preprocessor execution protocol works as follows for each specified value:

  1. Parse the preprocessor function signature into function name and arguments
  2. Retrieve the preprocessor business logic mapping to the function name in from the internal registry
  3. If arguments are specified, find their value in the list of decrypted arguments referenced in the previous section
  4. Run the preprocessor business logic
  5. Inject the outputs after the parameters of the callable function. The existing parameters followed by the preprocessor outputs must match to the callable function signature.

This release supports only one preprocessor: rand(). It accepts no argument.

Execution in EVM

All arguments of the callable function are now available. In order to execute the computation, the EVM requires bytes composed of the first bytes of a hash of the callable signature followed by the encoded arguments in order. The Application Binary Interface Specification describe the encoding specification.

The data required to invoke the callback function on-chain must be encoded in the same manner. This is convenient because we know that the callable outputs must match the callback inputs. This means that we do not need to decode the EVM output, simply adding the first bytes of a hash of the callback signature generates the required callback data.

On-Chain Verification

On-chain verification refers a set of instructions in the Enigma Contract which verify the authenticity of some data committed on-chain. This is done by signing a hash of this data in the enclave of a registered node (worker or principal) with its private key. Then, in the contract, a new hash is generated from the same data and verified using the ECRecover method of Ethereum. If ECRecover outputs the address of the correct node, we verified that this data originated from the expected enclave (see On SGX for the guarantees offered by this verification).

After Each New Epoch

After each epoch, the principal node generates a random seed. Then, it signs the seed in its enclave with its private key (see Worker Selection). Then, the node commits the seed to the Enigma Contract, which verifies the signature.

Post Computation

After a computation task is executed, the worker signs a hash of all parameters of the task in its enclave with its private key. Then, it commits this data to the Enigma Contract. The contract then recreates this hash, notably using the input parameters stored in the task record prior to broadcasting to the network. Once the signature of this hash is verified, the rest of the transaction is relayed to the callback method of the dApp contract.


Performing attestation involves a verifiable proof that guarantees that a given worker runs an intact version of Core within a certified enclave. Combined with On-Chain Verification, it offers strong guarantees about the privacy and correctness of those tasks (see On SGX).

The attestation protocol of Enigma is adapted from the Remote Attestation Protocol of Intel; a protocol Intel developed for establishing a secure stateful channel between two parties: an Enclave and a Service Provider. The Remote Attestation protocol of SGX is described in this SGX Attestation Process document. We adapt the higher level API provided by Intel and only use the things that we need to offer the guarantees stated above.

Because this proof is the key premise that guarantees privacy and correctness of a task, it is critical that dApp users must be able to verify this correctness independently (i.e. without any intermediary) for themselves. To ensure that dApp users never need to send any data nor pay any fee before obtaining such proof, they perform attestation before giving out each task. This way, if a malicious worker made its way through registration, it would never receive any task.

Attestation Sequence Diagram

The attestation protocol works as follows before each computation task:

  1. The dApp calls the Enigma Library with a compute request
  2. If the Enigma Library has workers parameters cached, it checks if the current block number is lower than the associated block number + number of blocks before the next reparameterization event.
  3. If the workers parameters are expired or not already in cache, it calls the Enigma Contract to get a new seed and ordered list of workers.
  4. It generates a random number that will serve as a nonce to ensure that the taskId is always unique. Then, it uses it to generate a taskId and determine the selected worker using the pseudo-randomness algorithm described in the Worker Selection section.
  5. If the worker has not yet been verified locally (i.e. not in cache), it requests a full report from the Enigma Contract. This report was already requested from Intel and stored in the contract during Registration.
  6. It parses the report into its parts: body of the report, signature, the x509 certificate associated with the report and its root certificate.
  7. Using standard crypto libraries, it verifies that the report is correctly signed by the attached x509 certificate. It also verifies that the attached root certificate matches Intel’s publically available root certificate issued by a Certificate Authority.