Author Archive

Test Driving Spark SQL with Intel SGX on Encrypted Data

Protecting sensitive business and personal information is a central requirement when enterprises move to the cloud. Many aspects of this requirement are already handled at various levels. Data-at-rest can be secured in cloud stores by encrypting it before storage, while data-in-flight is transmitted on protected channels such as TLS and HTTPS. Data-in-use, processed in cloud compute nodes, is kept in isolated virtual machines or containers. And now, a new generation of secure hardware technology (Intel SGX, AMD SME/SEV) provides additional protection of data processing in public clouds, by making the process memory inaccessible to malicious privileged software or system administrators…

The full article by Gidon Gershinsky (IBM) continues here 

RestAssured Joined the DPSP Cluster

In September 2017 RestAssured became a member of the Data Protection, Security, and Privacy in the Cloud (DPSP) Cluster.

Joining the cluster enables RestAssured to maximize the impact of the project’s outcomes by seeking synergies in the methods, tools, and solutions, and identifying future research and innovation needs. The collaboration among the members of the cluster also ensures the adoption of the results by aligning the exploitation strategies and maximizing the impact of dissemination and communication activities.

Adaptant Solutions AG represented the RestAssured consortium at the DPSP meeting in Amsterdam on September 19th. Adaptant’s CTO introduced the RestAssured project to the other DPSP cluster members in a brief slide presentation, focusing on the four innovation pillars of the project: Intel SGX (read the article “Intel SGX Development from IBM” on our blog), sticky policies, Models@runtime, and automated risk management.

Not only are many of the objectives of our fellow DPSP cluster members closely aligned to those of RestAssured, but also the technologies utilised within the projects are similar or in some cases identical. Spiros Alexakis from PaasWord gave a presentation outlining the project’s semantic policy enforcement and attribute based access control (ABAC using XACML) as well as use cases for IoT analytics. Spiros also represented the Unicorn project outlining their cloud orchestration techniques, including semantic policy validation and real time vulnerability assessment over multi-cloud execution environments. Other participants included Erkuden Rios Velasco presenting the MUSA project (the multi cloud security framework) and Thomas Langer from PrismaCloud (Cloud Security as a Service).

Unfortunately, Christof Fetzer, the coordinator of the SecureCloud project, was unable to attend the meeting. Their work includes the open source release of the TaLoS project ( This software allows existing applications to securely terminate their TLS connection inside a SGX secure enclave. This means that existing applications can use the TaLoS library with little if any modifications, in contrast to the SSL add-on for the Intel SGX SDK.


RestAssured Approach Presented at ESOCC 2017

Mike Surridge (IT Innovation) presented the RestAssured approach at an EU Project Workshop attached to the ESOCC 2017 conference in Olso, Norway. The workshop was too short to present more than a high level overview, but it proved useful in raising awareness of what we are trying to do, and also what other projects are doing. There are some synergies between RestAssured and other projects on cloud technology and research infrastructure. We hope to organise follow-up meetings over the next few months.

Intel SGX Development from IBM

Intel’s SGX technology for creating secure enclaves has the potential to guarantee the security of both data and applications hosted on public clouds.  However, there are numerous limitations on what can be run inside such enclaves and the investment required to learn how to use the SGX SDK for application developers can be quite steep.  In RestAssured, IBM researchers are collaborating with project use case partners (Oxford Computer Consultants and Adaptant) to better understand how real-world applications can be adapted to work with this emerging technology.

As an initial contribution to the project’s progress, IBM researchers have put together a trust management service and a toolkit which significantly simplifies the development of SGX applications, and optimises their runtime management. The toolkit performs a number of complex SGX operations (remote attestation, sealing, secret passing) on behalf of the application, allowing developers to focus on the business logic important to their organisations.

Remote attestation is the procedure of guaranteeing that an enclave is actually running on white-listed, genuine Intel SGX hardware, and the enclave image binary was not tampered with. It is a distributed process, involving the SGX enclave, a service provider and Intel Attestation Service (IAS) which requires an Intel license. The final step in the attestation procedure is an establishment of a secure channel between all three parties. This channel can be used for the exchange of secrets and authenticated data between the enclave, the services provider and IAS. SGX sealing is a mechanism for encrypting secret information and storing in a file that can only be decrypted by the same enclave on the same machine. IBM trust management framework creates an efficient attestation and secret passing service built on the basic SGX tools, and accompanied by an SDK that allows application developers to easily tap into these services.

Another IBM contribution is an integration of the open-source Opaque project ( with the IBM trust management framework. Opaque is a Spark SQL engine that is able to work with encrypted data in clouds, by leveraging Intel SGX to protect the computation. Users can simply run SQL queries in a Spark shell, or program the queries in the high-level Scala language. There is no need to develop  SGX applications in C/C++ with the SGX SDK. However, Opaque has a number of design and implementation limitations, related to attestation and data key passing,  that make it nearly impossible to use in RestAssured platform. By integrating with the IBM trust management toolkit, we enabled a highly efficient attestation of Opaque enclaves, flexible data key passing and overall integration into RestAssured platform.

Two Research Contributions at the CCGrid 2017 Conference

Two RestAssured research contributions were presented at this year’s CCGrid conference in Madrid. CCGrid, the IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Cluster, Cloud and Grid Computing, serves as the major international forum for presenting and sharing recent research results and technological developments in the fields of Cluster, Cloud and Grid computing and had this year its 17th installment (


The first research contribution entitled “Optimized cloud deployment of multi-tenant software considering data protection concerns,” authored by Dr. Zoltan Mann and Dr. Andreas Metzger from paluno (The Ruhr Institute for Software Technology) of the University of Duisburg-Essen, addresses the question of how secure hardware enclaves as part of cloud servers may increase the optimization possibilities of cloud providers. New algorithms are proposed to take advantage of such capabilities with the aim of ensuring data protection and minimizing costs simultaneously. Experimental results suggest that even a small percentage of secure hardware enclaves may lead to significant cost savings.


The second research contribution entitled “Joint optimization of scaling and placement of virtual network services” was joint work of Dr. Zoltan Mann with researchers from the University of Paderborn. It describes a new method and new algorithms for adaptively scaling and placing virtualized network functions (e.g., firewall, deep packet inspection, anti-virus, parental control) and their data flows in the cloud.