Intel processors of the 11th and 12th Core i generation no longer master the Software Guard Extensions (SGX) security function, including all newcomers such as the Core i9-12900K. We hadn’t noticed that either, because the function is hardly relevant for private PCs. However, Intel is alienating one group in particular: people who use their PC as a multimedia center.
Ultra HD Blu-rays with 4K resolution (3840 × 2160 pixels) can only be played back on PCs with the SGX function activated. This is due to the rigorous Digital Rights Management (DRM) specified by the Blu-ray Disc Association: In addition to High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) 2.2 from HDMI 2.0 and Advanced Access Content System (AACS) 2.0 copy protection, PCs also need SGX -Extension.
SGX separates various programs from each other in enclaves within the RAM so that malicious code or spyware cannot access sensitive data from other applications – a so-called Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) is created. Intel introduced SGX with the CPU generation Core i-6000 (Skylake), but the function has been repeatedly noticed over the years due to security gaps. Further development only takes place with Xeon server processors for cloud operators.
“Do not keep your system up to date”
In the Datasheets for Alder Lake (Core i-12000) and Rocket Lake (Core i-11000) lists Intel SGX under the “deprecated” tab. The function is therefore no longer available in hardware. The notebook processor family According to the data sheet, Tiger Lake can basically handle SGX, but Intel deactivates the function for all CPUs (Core i-1100G, Core i-11000H, Xeon W-11000).
CyberLink as a developer of playback software for Blu-rays writes in an FAQ postthat there is no choice in supporting Ultra HD Blu-rays unless the Blu-ray Disc Association backs down. Interested parties therefore need a Core i-7000, 8000, 9000 or 10000 to play the high-resolution films on a PC. 6000 CPUs are ruled out due to the lack of HDCP 2.2 – and AMD processors anyway due to the lack of SGX.
CyberLink’s recommendation not to keep systems used for UHD BD playback up to date, as software or firmware updates could delete the SGX function, for example via updated microcode, seems like real satire.
In recent years, Intel had phased out several comparatively new additional processor functions or even deactivated them later via microcode updates. In 2021, for example, this affected the Transactional Memory (TSX), which was only introduced in 2015 for security reasons. With Alder Lake aka Core i-12000, the AVX-512 is usually no longer usable either. Intel’s Memory Protection Extension (MPX) and Hardware Lock Elision (HLE, part of TSX) are also no longer on board the Alder Lake.