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Chapter 3 Platform Boot Integrity: Foundation for Trusted Compute Pools

In Chapter 2, we introduced the concept of trusted clouds and the key usage models to enable a trusted infrastructure. We provided a brief exposition of the boot integrity usage model, and its applicability across the three infrastructure domains—compute, storage, and network. In this chapter we will take a deeper look into ensuring the boot integrity of a compute platform, which boils down to ensuring the integrity of a number of platform components: the prelaunch and launch components covering firmware, BIOS, and hypervisor. Boot integrity is foundational in embodying the concept of a trusted infrastructure.

This chapter provides an introduction to the concept of roots of trust in a trusted computing platform, the measured boot process, and the attestation that are critical steps for ensuring boot integrity. It also provides an overview of Intel's Trusted Executed Technology (TXT), an example of root of trust technology for asserting platform boot integrity. Complementary to this is the concept of trusted compute pools, which is a logical or physical grouping of computing platforms with demonstrated platform boot integrity. Trusted compute pools embody the integrity of the virtual infrastructure, which can then enable granular controls, an essential requirement for virtualized data centers. Here, also, we present a solution reference architecture for building a trusted compute pool in a virtualized data center, and provide a case study of its implementation at the Taiwan Stock Exchange, with a number of typical use cases and the solution components of a successful implementation of trusted compute pools.

The Building blocks for Trusted Clouds

Organizations using or planning to use cloud services are starting to require that cloud service providers offer improved security at the hardware layer and greater transparency of system activities within and below the hypervisor. This means that cloud providers should be able to:

• Give organizations greater visibility into the security states of the hardware platforms running the IaaS for their private clouds.

• Produce automated and standardized reports on the configuration of the physical and virtual infrastructure hosting the customers' virtual machines and data.

• Set policy concerning the physical location of the servers on which the virtual machines are running, and control of the placement and migration of these virtual machines to acceptable locations based on such policy specifications (as some FISMA and DPA requirements dictate).

• Provide measured evidence that their services infrastructure complies with security policies and meets regulated data standards.

What is needed is a set of building blocks for the development of “trustworthy clouds.” These building blocks consist of:

• A chain of trust rooted in hardware that extends to the hypervisor.

• A hardening of the virtualization environment using known best methods.

• Provision of visibility for compliance and audit purposes.

• Trust as an integral part of policy management for cloud activity.

• A leveraging of infrastructure and services to address data protection requirements.

• Automation to bring it all together and achieve economies of scale and management efficiency.

Cloud providers and other members of the IT community are carrying out research and development to address this need. A growing ecosystem of technology companies is collaborating to develop a new, interoperable trusted computing infrastructure. The goal is to reduce the risk of attack, such as come from virtual rootkits, by building a hardware-based root of trust founded on the assumption that a hardware-based, bottom-up approach can make this infrastructure more impervious to exploits than does today's mostly software-based approach.

 
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