Microsoft researchers create a secure haven in the Cloud

To ensure trusted cloud operations, Microsoft Haven uses a new type of virtual machine and a set of new Intel chip security calls

Microsoft researchers have figured out a new way to keep data and applications secure in the cloud, by cordoning them off in memory from the underlying infrastructure.

The approach, which Microsoft calls Haven, could help enterprises feel more comfortable using the cloud for mission-essential data and applications, said the researchers, who are presenting the approach at the USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation in Broomfield, Colorado, this week. Microsoft researchers Andrew Baumann, Marcus Peinado and Galen Hunt authored a paper about Haven, which USENIX named the best of the conference.

They use a technique called "shielded execution," which protects the program and associated data from the platform on which they run, including the cloud provider's operating system, administrative software, firmware, and other software that supports the application.

Haven provides additional protection that can't be offered by existing techniques, runs on commodity operating systems and works with any legacy application.

"The single most common barrier to adopting cloud computing is the lack of trust in the cloud provider's ability to provide the same level of confidentiality and integrity as one could with an on-premise solution," wrote Jonathan Trull, chief information security officer for security research firm Qualys, in an email exchange about Haven.

Haven relies on two new technologies.

One is Intel's Software Guard Extensions (SGX), a set of CPU instructions for setting aside private areas in memory.

The other is Microsoft's Drawbridge, an experimental virtual container that can offer secure sandboxing of applications.

Using the processor as a part of the security setup is a move in the right direction, security professionals say. IBM also uses this approach to attract security-sensitive customers for its Softlayer cloud.

Haven is "a very intriguing concept," said Wolfgang Kandek, Qualys chief technology officer, via email. Kandek praised Intel for investigating how to add security-related calls to its CPU instructions. Chip-based security will ensure that programs can have additional protections without sacrificing performance, he said.

Microsoft has not said publicly if it will use the still-experimental Haven for its own Azure cloud services.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Microsoftsecuritycloud computinginternetInfrastructure services

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?