Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft back effort to encrypt server data

Confidential computing technologies offer the opportunity for organisations to collaborate on their data sets. Pixabay

"Microsoft has invested in confidential computing for many years, so I'm excited to announce that Microsoft will join industry partners to create the Confidential Computing Consortium, a new organization that will be hosted at The Linux Foundation".

Data privacy and security is a hot topic of late, thanks in no small part to serious security failings at companies including supposed security specialist Suprema and social networking behemoth Facebook.

Confidential Computing is therefore all about processing that encrypted data in memory without having it exposed to the rest of the system.

Intel SGX is already available in the chipmaker's Xeon E-2100 processors and cloud instances from Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud Data Guard, Baidu, Alibaba Cloud and Equinix.

The companies will collaborate on open-source technologies and standards that accelerate the adoption of confidential computing.

The Confidential Computing Consortium aims to help define and accelerate open-source technology that keeps data in use secure.

Numerous founding members are cloud computing companies, for whom confidential computing has a particular interest: Using a confidential computing model, it would be possible for a company to transmit encrypted data to a cloud platform, have it processed, and receive the encrypted results without the cloud platform ever being able to access the decrypted data directly.

While Microsoft handed over its Open Enclave SDK for developers to build Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) applications, Red Hat came forth with Enarx for running TEE applications.

However, it is going to take a lot of time and effort before we get to reap the benefits of Confidential Computing Consortium. "Multiple untrusted parties can share transactions but protect their confidential or proprietary data from the other parties by using enclaves". Intel will be contributing its software guard extensions SDK created to help app developers protect select code and data. A TEE is used to protect the processed data and can be either hardware- or software-based. Apart from Intel, Microsoft recently contributed the Open Enclave SDK, which is an open-source framework that allows developers to build TEE applications using a single enclaving abstraction. More organizations will switch computing environments between public cloud, on-premises, and edge more frequently. The most popular of the early use cases use the trusted enclave for key protection and crypto-operations. Confidential computing can minimize the exposure of confidential data and enable better control and transparency for users. Wider and accelerated adoption will ensure there are no weak or exposed areas where data flows unencrypted due to failure of compliance, noted Bursell, "This move to confidential computing is something that fits very much with our vision".

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