An Introduction to Attestation in Build Security

An Introduction to Attestation in Build Security

Understanding Attestation in Build Security

Did you know that a single line of faulty code can cost a company millions of dollars? In today’s digital world, where software underpins everything from our finances to our healthcare, ensuring software security is paramount. Enter attestation in build security, a game-changer in DevSecOps practices. Attestation provides verifiable evidence that software builds adhere to strict security standards, fostering trust and mitigating threats throughout the development lifecycle.

Did you know that a bug in the code of Knight Capital Group, a high-frequency trading firm, led to a loss of $460 million in just 45 minutes in 2012? The faulty code sent out millions of erroneous stock orders, causing market chaos and significant financial losses for the company.

What is Attestation in Build Security?

Attestation in build security is a critical process within DevSecOps that generates verifiable evidence to confirm that software builds comply with predetermined security policies and procedures. This evidence is crucial for protecting software supply chains against cyber threats. It ensures that every step of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) adheres to the highest security standards, many of which are outlined in NIST’s comprehensive cybersecurity frameworks.

The Pillars of Build Security Attestation

Build security attestation is supported by some defined pillars, which are elements of underpin the software’s integrity, reliability, and trustworthiness in the context of DevSecOps practice. These are the important principles, processes, and components contained in the build security attestation execution and implementation. We shall consider each of the pillars.

Collection of all the necessary evidence across the whole Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC): In this first pillar are analyses to collect logs, configuration, and data relevant to the point of origin at several stages within the construction process. By systematically collecting through this evidence, organizations can maintain transparency, traceability, and accountability throughout the development pipeline.

Secure Storage: This involves how securely the evidence collected is stored without being accessed by an unauthorized person, tampered with, or its content compromised. It involves the use of mechanisms for encrypted and access-controlled storage to ensure both integrity and confidentiality against compromise or unauthorized access to the stored attestation data. This is the pillar whereby evidence remains immutable and trustworthy so that a reliable source of truth is brought to bear through verification.

Attestation Engine: An attestation engine reviews the collected proof with predefined security policies and procedures, on this core. The Attestation Engine shall assess the conformance of software builds to defined security standards and produce the required attestations to document that the build conforms to specified security standards. The core of the process is the Attestation Engine, which automates the attestation process to ensure that the time-conscious, accurate, and consistent security checks for the integrity of the build are done.

Independent Verification: The fourth pillar draws the support of independent verification to attest to the role of the generated attestations. Impartial verification aligns with the assessment of the generated attestations to meet and validate their integrity with the relevant security policies and procedures. This pillar ensures the process of attestation is objective, accountable, and carried out with trustworthiness. This will bring a factor that would have reduced bias or manipulation in the process of attestation.

Reporting and Insights: The final pillar covers full reporting and insight into the process of attestation. A dashboard or reporting mechanism provides visibility concerning the security posture of software builds, whether the area of compliance with standards for security exists or is not available. This helps in identifying exposures, tracking performance, and making informed decisions to enhance and build security.

Thus, the strong combination of these pillars sets the base for building security attestation, which helps organizations in software development practices against emerging cyber threats. Firm adaptation of these principles in the processes and technologies will make the companies develop a culture associated with safe, integral, and trusted software build.

The Attestation Workflow: Ensuring Integrity and Trust

The Attestation Workflow: Ensuring Integrity and Trust

The attestation workflow is a structured approach designed to verify the authenticity of every software component, beginning with the establishment of a contract. This contract outlines the expectations for the attestation, such as specifying details about the container image or requiring a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) for attestations of high evidentiary value. It serves as a benchmark, ensuring that all build processes meet predefined standards.

Incorporating this process into Continuous Integration (CI) pipelines enables seamless creation of attestations, which document the software’s journey through development, testing, and deployment. These documents are maintained with stringent security and integrity measures and are rigorously checked against the contract to confirm their validity.

The journey of attestation unfolds through several distinct phases, each critical to the integrity of the build security:

  • Preparation: Establishing the attestation framework and defining security policies.
  • Evidence Collection: Gathering data across the SDLC to ensure a comprehensive security overview.
  • Attestation Generation: Evaluating the evidence to produce attestations that affirm compliance with security policies.
  • Verification: Independently verifying attestations to confirm the build’s security integrity.
  • Reporting and Insight: Analyzing attestation results to provide actionable insights for enhancing build security.

Benefits of Embracing Attestation in Build Security

Adopting attestation in build security offers numerous advantages, pivotal for maintaining a secure and trustworthy software development environment:

  • Enhanced Security: Guarantees that builds are secure, adhering to established security policies.
  • Improved Trust: Establishes transparency and accountability, fostering trust among stakeholders.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Facilitates adherence to security standards, meeting regulatory requirements.
  • Risk Mitigation: Early identification and mitigation of potential security risks within the development process.
  • Operational Efficiency: Integrates security practices within the CI/CD pipeline, boosting efficiency.

Attestation Formats and Models: 

Attestation formats and models refer to structured frameworks and standardization in the manner of representation enunciated in the authentic statement given regarding software artifacts or events. It is a way of expressing systematically concerning metadata and allows the attester to be satisfied with the interchangeability of attestation across different software development environments to deal with issues of clarity and practice consistent. Let’s delve deeper into understanding attestation formats and models:

  • Objective: Attestation formats and models aim to represent the trust and authenticity of software artifacts or events. The scope of information may be quite wide—from how the software artifact has been created to metadata on its origin, dependencies, and security attributes.
  • Standardization: It comprises formats and models usually standardizing, in many cases, the processed consistency and compatibility among various tools, platforms, and ecosystems. Standardization in the effort of an industry can be defined by different entities: an industry association, standard-setting body, or community, whereby all have a common goal in their definition of common schemas, data structures, and protocols for saying the same thing.
Types of Attestation Formats:
  • Provenance: The SLSA (Supply Chain Levels of Software Assurance) Provenance format is a widely adopted format for the representation of software attestation across open-source supply chains. It offers a structured way to provide information on how software artifacts were built, which includes not only the environment details but also the details of the dependencies and build commands.
  • SBOM (Software Bill of Materials): This represents a formatted list of software artifacts, including their dependencies and relationships. It provides the software build composition transparently so that, based on that composition, stakeholders can make proper assessment and risk judgments for security, compliance, and license obligations.
  • Other Custom Formats: Custom Attestation formats can be customized as per the organization’s specific requirement compliance needs or industry standards. Additional metadata fields, along with organizational policies and practices-based validation rules or even cryptographic mechanisms, can be added as per the requirement.
Attestation Model elements:

Attestation models include several structured elements in a standard way. Different models or forms indicate what is to be included in the attestation and how it should be structured.

  • Envelope: Provides authenticity and integrity of the attestation message normally by cryptographic digital signature or certificate.
  • Statement: Contains the actual content or statement being attested, i.e., details about the software artifact, its provenance, or compliance status.
  • Signature: Denotes the attester who created the attestation, ensuring accountability and authenticity.
  • Predicate: It shall contain metadata about the attestation subject; this includes the artifact attributes, the artifact properties, or its compliance status.
  • Bundle: A collection of multiple attestations or artifacts that are related in a related manner, facilitating the organization and management of attestation data.

Interoperability and Adoption

 By being able to use formats and models for attestation that are standardized, they easily integrate into existing toolchains, workflows, or security frameworks in interoperability and adoption, which assures a smooth promotion of the adoption process. It facilitates attestation for automated processing, validation, and verification of different environments in software development and deployment.

Attestations Security Best practices

Best practices in attestations refer to the guidelines, methods, and approaches within software development and its supply chain ecosystems, which ensure the effectiveness, security, and reliability of attestation processes. Some of the key best practices to guide the entities to have a sound attestation framework that supports trust, transparency, and accountability include the following:

  • Representation of the Attestations: Standardization should be adhered to concerning formats, schemas, and protocols for the representation of attestations. Use industry standards where possible to guarantee consistency and compatibility with the tools, platforms, and ecosystems that the resulting solution will interact with.
  • Authentication and Integrity: Implement strong mechanisms such as cryptographic signs, digital certificates, or hash functions to assure the identity of the attestation and its content not to be altered, protecting against any form of tampering, forging, or other unauthorized modifications to the attested data.
  • Access Control and Authorization: Enforce access control and authorization policies to limit who can access attestation data according to need-to-know or least-privilege principles. Only relevant persons or systems should have the authority to create, modify, or access attestations, preventing unauthorized access and ensuring data confidentiality.
  • Storage: Store attestations in secure and tamper-proof containers or repositories, which are encrypted, access-controlled, and have audit trails to maintain data confidentiality and resilience. They should be readily available when needed for verification or audit purposes.
  • Lifecycle Management: Establish clear processes for attestation lifecycle management, including creation, validation, expiration, and revocation. Regularly update attestations to reflect changes in software builds, dependencies, or security postures.
  • Auditing and Monitoring: Set up auditing and monitoring mechanisms to track and audit attestation activities, including creation, verification, and consumption. This allows for timely detection and response to security incidents within attestations.
  • Easily Integrated with Third Parties: Ensure easy integration of attestation processes with third-party tools, services, or platforms used within the software development and supply chain ecosystem, including CI/CD pipelines, artifact repositories, vulnerability scanners, and policy enforcement engines.
  • Transparency and Documentation: Maintain openness and documentation in attestation processes, policies, and procedures. Document the rationale, criteria, and methodologies for generating, verifying, and interpreting attestations to ensure all parties involved understand and are accountable.
  • Training and Awareness: Provide training and awareness programs for all personnel involved in the attestation process, such as developers, security practitioners, and auditors, ensuring they understand their roles, responsibilities, and best practices for attestation.
  • Continuous Improvement: Foster a culture of continuous improvement through feedback, reviews, and iterative enhancements within technology and governance frameworks. Regularly assess and refine attestation practices to adapt to changing risks, regulations, and standards.

Xygeni’s Attestation Solution: Elevating Cybersecurity Standards For The Digital Age

Attestation comes as one of the leading solutions with verifiable assurance that a product’s software components and processes will be in compliance and will not lose integrity at the highest standards.

With Xygeni’s attestation solution, companies can raise their security posture and reinforce their software development practices against the emergent threats of cybersecurity.

Xygeni’s Attestation solution represents the strongest proactive security defense for organizations, ensuring they stay steps ahead of the evolving landscape of threats and emerging challenges in the world of cybersecurity. The move is set to back organizations as they continue to adopt Software Supply Chain Security (SSCS) in setting new standards for the pursuit of better security, compliance, and trust. Xygeni is fully dedicated to relentless innovation and excellent execution—solutions that enable organizations to achieve their security goals in the fast-changing digital ecosystem.

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