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How we validated the security controls of our new Confidential Space

We’re pleased to announce that Confidential Space, our new solution that allows you to control access to your sensitive data and securely collaborate in ways not previously possible, is now available in public Preview. First announced at Google Cloud Next, Confidential Space can offer many benefits to securely manage data from financial institutions, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, and Web3 assets. Today, we will explore some security properties of the Confidential Space system that makes these solutions possible. 

Confidential Space uses a trusted execution environment (TEE), which allows data contributors to have control over how their data is used and which workloads are authorized to act on the data. An attestation process and hardened operating system image helps to protect the workload and the data that the workload processes from an untrusted operator.

The Confidential Space system has three core components:

The workload is a containerized image with a hardened OS that runs in a cloud-based TEE. You can use Confidential Computing as the TEE that offers hardware isolation and remote attestation capabilities.

The attestation service, which is an OpenID Connect (OIDC) token provider. This service verifies the attestation quotes for TEE and releases authentication tokens. The tokens contain identification attributes for the workload.

A managed cloud protected resource, such as a Cloud Key Management Service key or Cloud Storage bucket. The resource is protected by an allow policy that grants access to authorized federated identity tokens. 

The system can help ensure that access to protected resources is granted only to authorized workloads. Confidential Space also can help protect the workload from inspection and tampering, before and after attestation.

In our published Confidential Space Security Overview research paper, we explore several potential attack vectors against a Confidential Space system and how it can mitigate those threats. Notably, the research notes how Confidential Space can protect against malicious workload operators and administrators, and malicious outside adversaries, who are attempting to create rogue workload attestations.

Through these protections, Confidential Space establishes confidence that only the agreed upon workloads will be able to access sensitive data. The research also highlights some of the extensive security reviews and tests executed to identify potential weak points in the system, including domain expert reviews, meticulous security audits, and functional and fuzz testing.

We asked the NCC Group for an independent security assessment of Confidential Space to analyze its architecture and implementation. NCC Group leveraged their experience reviewing other Google Cloud products to dig deep into Confidential Space. 

The NCC Group’s  extensive review, which included penetration testing and automated security scanning, found zero security vulnerabilities. In their report, the architecture review highlights how the security properties are achieved through the coordination of measured boot with vTPM attestation, reduced attack surface with constricted administrator controls and access, workload measurement and enforced launch policy, and resource protection policy based on attested workload runtime properties.

The combination of these attributes creates powerful security properties, gating release of data on runtime measurements of the actual workload code and environment instead of just user and service account credentials. Confidential Space provides a platform that includes:

A dependable workload attestation, including workload code measurement, arguments and environment, and operating environment claims

A fully-managed attestation verification service that validates expected environmental attestation claims

A policy engine allowing for arbitrarily complex (or extremely simple) policy to be created around those claims

A mechanism to attach those policies to Google Cloud resources

Together, the platform provides a mechanism where one can ensure that their data is only ever released into trusted workloads that will not abuse that data.

Take a look at our documentation and codelab and take it for a spin. We hope that Confidential Space can inspire organizations to solve their use cases around multi-party collaboration with sensitive data; please contact your Google Cloud sales representative if you have any questions.

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