More On High Assurance (via TPM) Cloud Environments
Back in September 2009 after presenting at the Intel Virtualization (and Cloud) Security Summit and urging Intel to lead by example by pushing the adoption and use of TPM in virtualization and cloud environments, I blogged a simple question (here) as to the following:
Does anyone know of any Public Cloud Provider (or Private for that matter) that utilizes Intel’s TXT?
Interestingly the replies were few; mostly they were along the lines of “we’re considering it,” “…it’s on our long radar,” or “…we’re unclear if there’s a valid (read: economically viable) use case.”
At this year’s RSA Security Conference, however, EMC/RSA, Intel and VMware made an announcement regarding a PoC of their “Trusted Cloud Infrastructure,” describing efforts to utilize technology across the three vendors’ portfolios to make use of the TPM:
The foundation for the new computing infrastructure is a hardware root of trust derived from Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT), which authenticates every step of the boot sequence, from verifying hardware configurations and initialising the BIOS to launching the hypervisor, the companies said.
Once launched, the VMware virtualisation environment collects data from both the hardware and virtual layers and feeds a continuous, raw data stream to the RSA enVision Security Information and Event Management platform. The RSA enVision is engineered to analyse events coming through the virtualisation layer to identify incidents and conditions affecting security and compliance.
The information is then contextualised within the Archer SmartSuite Framework, which is designed to present a unified, policy-based assessment of the organisation’s security and compliance posture through a central dashboard, RSA said.
It should be noted that in order to take advantage of said solution, the following components are required: a future release of RSA’s Archer GRC console, the upcoming Intel Westmere CPU and a soon-to-be-released version of VMware’s vSphere. In other words, this isn’t available today and will require upgrades up and down the stack.
Sam Johnston today pointed me toward an announcement from Enomaly referencing the “High Assurance Edition” of ECP which laid claims of assurance using the TPM beyond the boundary of the VMM to include the guest OS and their management system:
Enomaly’s Trusted Cloud platform provides continuous security assurance by means of unique, hardware-assisted mechanisms. Enomaly ECP High Assurance Edition provides both initial and ongoing Full-Stack Integrity Verification to enable customers to receive cryptographic proof of the correct and secure operation of the cloud platform prior to running any application on the cloud.
- Full-Stack Integrity Verification provides the customer with hardware-verified proof that the cloud stack (encompassing server hardware, hypervisor, guest OS, and even ECP itself) is intact and has not been tampered with. Specifically, the customer obtains cryptographically verifiable proof that the hardware, hypervisor, etc. are identical to reference versions that have been certified and approved in advance. The customer can therefore be assured, for example, that:
- The hardware has not been modified to duplicate data to some storage medium of which the application is not aware
- No unauthorized backdoors have been inserted into the cloud managment system
- The hypervisor has not been modified (e.g. to copy memory state)
- No hostile kernel modules have been injected into the guest OSThis capability therefore enables customers to deploy applications to public clouds with confidence that the confidentiality and integrity of their data will not be compromised.
Of particular interest was Enomaly’s enticement of service providers with the following claim:
…with Enomaly’s patented security functionality, can deliver a highly secure Cloud Computing service – commanding a higher price point than commodity public cloud providers.
I’m looking forward to exploring more regarding these two example solutions as they see the light of day (and how long this will take given the need for platform-specific upgrades up and down the stack) as well as whether or not customers are actually willing to pay — and providers can command — a higher price point for what these components may offer. You can bet certain government agencies are interested.
There are potentially numerous benefits with the use of this technology including security, compliance, assurance, audit and attestation capabilities (I hope also to incorporate more of what this might mean into the CloudAudit/A6 effort) but I’m very interested as to the implications on (change) management and policy, especially across heterogeneous environments and the extension and use of TPM’s across mobile platforms.
Of course, researchers are interested in these things too…see Rutkowska, et. al and “Attacking Intel Trusted Execution Technology” as an example.
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