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Highlights from the Confidential Computing DevRoom at FOSDEM

By February 13, 2024No Comments7 min read

The Confidential Computing DevRoom at FOSDEM brought together experts and enthusiasts to discuss and demystify the rapidly evolving field of Confidential Computing. The event was a melting pot of ideas, showcasing the latest advancements, practical applications, and the future direction of this technology.

 Kickoff: Unveiling the Essence of Confidential Computing

The DevRoom opened with Fritz Alder, Jo Van Bulk, and Fabiano Fidencio welcoming attendees and setting the stage for the day’s discussions. They emphasized the importance of adhering to the Confidential Computing Consortium (CCC) definition, highlighting key properties such as data confidentiality, integrity, and code integrity. The conversation also touched on contextual properties like code confidentiality, authenticated launch, and attestability, underscoring the diversity in application needs and security requirements.

Intel TDX: A Leap Towards VM Isolation

Dr. Benny Fuhry took the stage to deep dive into Intel Trusted Domain Extensions (TDX), presenting it as a groundbreaking approach to VM isolation. Intel TDX stands out by ensuring that each trust domain is encrypted with a unique key, a move aimed at mitigating Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM) attacks. With general availability announced alongside the 5th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors, Intel TDX is set to revolutionize memory confidentiality, integrity, and key management.

Watch this talk. 

 SGX-STEP: Enhancing Side Channel Attack Resolution

The SGX-STEP presentation from Luca Wilke spotlighted innovative techniques to counteract side-channel attacks, still a concern in the realm of Confidential Computing. Through detailed explanations of single stepping, interrupt counting, and amplification, the speakers shed light on improving temporal resolution for side-channel attacks, presenting a clear path toward more secure environments that could be used in Confidential Computing and beyond. 

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Database Security: Bridging Confidential Computing and Data Storage

Ilaria Battiston and Lotte Felius delved into the integration of confidential computing with database systems, presenting their research on secure databases. They discussed the performance overhead of utilizing SGX with SQLite and PostgreSQL, emphasizing the trade-offs between security and efficiency with preliminary results. Their work on minimizing performance impacts through vectorized processing inside secure enclaves provided valuable insights for developers aiming to secure database operations.

Watch this talk. 

Ups and Downs of Running Enclaves in Production

Evervault’s presentation from Cian Butler highlighted their innovative solutions for data security and compliance, focusing on encryption proxies and secure serverless functions. They discussed the challenges of monitoring and observability within AWS Nitro enclaves, showcasing their efforts to enhance reliability and performance in secure computing environments.

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 fTPM: Securing Embedded Systems

Tymoteusz Burak introduced the concept of fTPM implemented as a Trusted Application in ARM TrustZone, offering a compelling solution for enhancing the security of embedded systems. Despite challenges such as lack of secure storage and entropy sources, fTPM stands as a testament to the potential of leveraging Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs) for robust security measures.

Watch this talk.

Integrity Protected Workloads 

The presentation by Tom Dohrmann on Mushroom offered an insightful look into securing Linux workloads using AMD’s SEV-SNP technology. With a clear goal to run Linux programs securely, Mushroom addresses the critical need for integrity in remote code compilation on untrusted hosts. The architecture of Mushroom, built with a focus on minimalism and security, comprises a kernel and a supervisor, both developed in Rust, emphasizing efficiency and reduced host interaction. 

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Reproducible Builds For Confidential Computing

The talk by Malte Poll and Paul Meyer delved into a critical aspect of Confidential Computing: the validation of Trusted Computing Base (TCB) measurements through remote attestation and the importance of reproducible builds in this process. The presentation highlighted the challenges in the current landscape, where reference values for validating TCB measurements are often provided by third parties without transparent mechanisms for auditing their trustworthiness or origin. Advocating for an auditable CC ecosystem, the speakers emphasized the necessity for every component of the TCB to be open source and reproducible, allowing end-users to verify the deployed system comprehensively. Utilizing mkosi and Nix(OS), they showcased how to build fully reproducible OS images from source code to reference values for remote attestation, providing a foundation for projects like Constellation and the Confidential Containers project. This approach aims to enhance the trust and security in Confidential Computing by enabling the community to independently verify reference values, marking a significant step towards more transparent and secure computing environments.

Watch this talk. 

 Advancing Remote Attestation

Ionut Mihalcea and Thomas Fossati showed us the development and importance of remote attestation covered milestones from the formation of TCPA to the latest advancements in RATS EAT. This narrative underscored the critical role of remote attestation in establishing trust and preserving privacy within confidential computing frameworks.

Watch this Talk

FOSDEM: The Broader Impact 

FOSDEM concluded with a roundup of various DevRooms, highlighting the interconnectedness of confidential computing with other domains such as energy, community development, and monitoring. Special attention was given to the EU’s new open-source cloud initiative, IPCEI-CIS, showcasing the commitment to leveraging open-source solutions for enhancing security and privacy.

A Special Thank You

As we reflect on all the experiences and exchanges at FOSDEM, we want to share a special note of gratitude to all participants of the Decrypted Gathering – one that we received directly from the catering team who worked with us that night:

I catered your event and I have to thank you for having been the most respectful and polite clients I’ve ever seen… And I of course thank you for working for such a noble cause that is data protection and open OS.

Thank you for existing and you can congratulate all the persons present. It was unseen and so heartwarming for me/us. 

All the best,

Lauréline

Confidential computing is unique. It’s the kind of work that anyone can understand the value of, as soon as you explain the kind of data we try to keep private. Personalized medicine, space technology, and energy grids are all parts of Confidential Computing’s emerging sectors. 

I’m incredibly grateful to have a growing community of engineers, academics and technology giants all coming together around this work. Thank you to everyone who is helping us to bring Confidential Computing to the center stage of this year. 

Want to Get Involved with CCC? 

If you are still looking to get involved with the Confidential Computing Consortium, you can find more resources about our technical committees and institutional memberships here. All of our technical committee meetings are open to the public, and recorded for all to view. We welcome anyone who wants to join in on the conversations around Confidential Computing.

If there’s a concept or clarification from these talks you believe is important to share with the CCC community, get in touch with me at skimmich@contractor.linuxfoundation.org and we’ll help you do write it up as a blog post or webinar, and get the information out to everyone.

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