Today, enterprises are looking for ways to keep their data secure in the cloud. With the global pandemic spurring the adoption of public and hybrid cloud services, data privacy has become more important than ever. And this is where confidential computing has a role to play, providing greater assurance to the companies and leaders that their data in the cloud is protected and confidential.

What is Confidential Computing?

Confidential computing refers to cloud computing technology that can isolate data within a protected central processing unit (CPU) while it is being processed. Within the CPU’s environment is the data that the CPU processes and the methods used to process this data. This is only accessible to specially authorized – to provide privileged access – programming code. The CPU’s resources are otherwise invisible and cannot be discovered by any program or person, and that applies to the cloud provider as well.

More and more, organizations are turning to hybrid and public cloud services, making it more important than ever to find data privacy solutions. The main objective of confidential computing involves providing companies with a greater sense of confidence in the security of their data. They need to know it is well-protected and kept confidential before they can feel comfortable moving it to a cloud environment.

This confidence is just as important when it comes to sensitive or business-critical workloads. For many companies, the move to the cloud involves trusting in an unseen technology. This may raise difficult questions, particularly if unknown individuals, such as the cloud provider, can gain access to their digital assets. Confidential computing seeks to allay these concerns.

The data encryption concept is not new to cloud computing. For years, cloud providers have been encrypting data at rest, sitting in a database or a storage device. They have also encrypted data in transit, moving through a network. These have long been central aspects of cloud security. However, with confidential computing, in addition to data that is at rest and in transit, data in use is also protected with encryption.

confidential computing

Working functionality of Confidential Computing

Here, we will discuss the working functionality of Confidential Computing as follows.

  • Before processing the application, data must be encrypted in memory. This leaves data vulnerable just before, during, and after processing memory loss, root user compromise, and other malicious exploitation.
  • Confidential computing solves this problem by using a reliable hardware-based operating environment, or TEE(Trusted Education Environment), which is a secure environment within the CPU.
  • TEE is secured using embedded encryption keys, with authentication procedures that ensure that the keys are only available in the authorized programming code.
  • If malware or other unauthorized code tries to access the keys or if the authorized code is illegally entered or modified in any way TEE refuses access to the keys and cancels the count.

What are the benefits of Confidential Computing?

  • Confidential computing enables end-to-end security encryption.
  • Protects your data while in the state of being processed.
  • Cloud customers have higher authority over their data and their processing on all points.
  • Increases transparency and builds user trust.
  • Ensures protection against any unauthentic use by insiders keeps network vulnerabilities in check, and other threats to hardware- or software-based technology.
  • Confidential computing makes it easier to move between different environments without exposing any sensitive data.

Why use Confidential Computing?

  • To protect sensitive data, even while in use – and to extend cloud computing benefits to sensitive workloads. When used together with data encryption at rest and in transit with exclusive control of keys, confidential computing eliminates the single largest barrier to moving sensitive or highly regulated data sets and application workloads from an inflexible, expensive on-premises IT infrastructure to a more flexible and modern public cloud platform.
  • To protect intellectual property. Confidential computing isn’t just for data protection. The TEE can also be used to protect proprietary business logic, analytics functions, machine learning algorithms, or entire applications.
  • To collaborate securely with partners on new cloud solutions. For example, one company’s team can combine its sensitive data with another company’s proprietary calculations to create new solutions – without either company sharing any data or intellectual property that it doesn’t want to share.
  • To eliminate concerns when choosing cloud providers. Confidential computing lets a company leader choose the cloud computing services that best meet the organization’s technical and business requirements, without worrying about storing and processing customer data, proprietary technology, and other sensitive assets. This approach also helps alleviate any additional competitive concerns if the cloud provider also provides competing business services.
  • To protect data processed at the edge. Edge computing is a distributed computing framework that brings enterprise applications closer to data sources such as IoT devices or local edge servers. When this framework is used as part of distributed cloud patterns, the data and application at edge nodes can be protected with confidential computing.

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The Future Of Cloud Security

Security risks will continue to persist in 2022 and beyond as our digital worlds become more connected with new technologies and cloud adoption skyrockets.

Whether in privacy-intensive industries like healthcare and financial services or government, all stand to benefit from better cyber security practices. With the growing data security challenges and proliferating privacy regulations, it is imperative organizations take further steps to mitigate cyber security risks at every stage of the data life cycle. This can include regular updates to software and firmware, implementing multifactor authentication, consistent data backups, and ongoing security education for employees.

These practices, in tandem with confidential computing, will yield the best results to safeguard your business.

Conclusion

The use of confidential computing enables customers to run highly sensitive workloads in the cloud, minimizing the risk of insider access. Along with data-in-transit and data-at-rest encryption, data-in-use encryption is the third pillar of E2E encryption.  This tool, confidential computing, is based on the use of hardware-based Trusted Execution Environments (TEE).

The creation of the Confidential Computing Consortium (CCC) supports this new approach to security and aims to define standards for the use of Confidential Computing by supporting the development and adoption of open source tools. The CCC is committed to creating a secure system without relying on proprietary software for confidential computing environments.

Currently, there is a wide range of offerings in the Confidential Computing market, such as Amazon which relies heavily on the Amazon EC2 design, or Microsoft and Google whose offerings are based on the security enhancements of Intel and AMD processors. All these large companies are betting heavily on the use of Confidential computing.