Defining Confidential Computing
Confidential Computing (CC) refers to a set of technologies and practices that aim to protect data while it is being processed in computer systems. It involves encrypting data while it is in use, as well as isolating it from other processes and applications on the same system.
There are many powerful and interesting ideas engendered by this model of computing. For example, the model allows applications to process sensitive data in a protected environment without exposing it to other processes and applications on the same system.
An important notion in CC is the hardware root of trust, achieved by embedding a set of private keys into the hardware. These keys can be used to establish and verify the authenticity and the integrity of the hardware. Isolated and protected environments created using Confidential Computing can be used to generate keys that encrypt data which can only be decrypted inside an isolated and protected environment. In this sense, the custody of the data is effectively given to the system.
This can have far reaching consequences for compliance and audit. A key feature of computing environments created using CC is that immutable and verifiable audit logs can be generated of the actors and activities inside such environments. Establishing a chain of data custody from enterprises to hardware created environments raises several new issues and concerns including notions of program identity and authorizing access privileges to computer programs.
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