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AMD Memory Encryption
Secure Memory Encryption (SME) and Secure Encrypted Virtualization (SEV) are
features found on AMD processors.
SME provides the ability to mark individual pages of memory as encrypted using
the standard x86 page tables. A page that is marked encrypted will be
automatically decrypted when read from DRAM and encrypted when written to
DRAM. SME can therefore be used to protect the contents of DRAM from physical
attacks on the system.
SEV enables running encrypted virtual machines (VMs) in which the code and data
of the guest VM are secured so that a decrypted version is available only
within the VM itself. SEV guest VMs have the concept of private and shared
memory. Private memory is encrypted with the guest-specific key, while shared
memory may be encrypted with hypervisor key. When SME is enabled, the hypervisor
key is the same key which is used in SME.
A page is encrypted when a page table entry has the encryption bit set (see
below on how to determine its position). The encryption bit can also be
specified in the cr3 register, allowing the PGD table to be encrypted. Each
successive level of page tables can also be encrypted by setting the encryption
bit in the page table entry that points to the next table. This allows the full
page table hierarchy to be encrypted. Note, this means that just because the
encryption bit is set in cr3, doesn't imply the full hierarchy is encrypted.
Each page table entry in the hierarchy needs to have the encryption bit set to
achieve that. So, theoretically, you could have the encryption bit set in cr3
so that the PGD is encrypted, but not set the encryption bit in the PGD entry
for a PUD which results in the PUD pointed to by that entry to not be
When SEV is enabled, instruction pages and guest page tables are always treated
as private. All the DMA operations inside the guest must be performed on shared
memory. Since the memory encryption bit is controlled by the guest OS when it
is operating in 64-bit or 32-bit PAE mode, in all other modes the SEV hardware
forces the memory encryption bit to 1.
Support for SME and SEV can be determined through the CPUID instruction. The
CPUID function 0x8000001f reports information related to SME::
Bit[0] indicates support for SME
Bit[1] indicates support for SEV
Bits[5:0] pagetable bit number used to activate memory
Bits[11:6] reduction in physical address space, in bits, when
memory encryption is enabled (this only affects
system physical addresses, not guest physical
If support for SME is present, MSR 0xc00100010 (MSR_AMD64_SYSCFG) can be used to
determine if SME is enabled and/or to enable memory encryption::
Bit[23] 0 = memory encryption features are disabled
1 = memory encryption features are enabled
If SEV is supported, MSR 0xc0010131 (MSR_AMD64_SEV) can be used to determine if
SEV is active::
Bit[0] 0 = memory encryption is not active
1 = memory encryption is active
Linux relies on BIOS to set this bit if BIOS has determined that the reduction
in the physical address space as a result of enabling memory encryption (see
CPUID information above) will not conflict with the address space resource
requirements for the system. If this bit is not set upon Linux startup then
Linux itself will not set it and memory encryption will not be possible.
The state of SME in the Linux kernel can be documented as follows:
- Supported:
The CPU supports SME (determined through CPUID instruction).
- Enabled:
Supported and bit 23 of MSR_AMD64_SYSCFG is set.
- Active:
Supported, Enabled and the Linux kernel is actively applying
the encryption bit to page table entries (the SME mask in the
kernel is non-zero).
SME can also be enabled and activated in the BIOS. If SME is enabled and
activated in the BIOS, then all memory accesses will be encrypted and it will
not be necessary to activate the Linux memory encryption support. If the BIOS
merely enables SME (sets bit 23 of the MSR_AMD64_SYSCFG), then Linux can activate
memory encryption by default (CONFIG_AMD_MEM_ENCRYPT_ACTIVE_BY_DEFAULT=y) or
by supplying mem_encrypt=on on the kernel command line. However, if BIOS does
not enable SME, then Linux will not be able to activate memory encryption, even
if configured to do so by default or the mem_encrypt=on command line parameter
is specified.