Google Cloud introduces shielded VMs for additional security

While we might like to think all of our applications are equal in our eyes, in reality some are more important than others and require an additional level of security. To meet those requirements, Google introduced shielded virtual machines at Google Next today.

As Google describes it, “Shielded VMs leverage advanced platform security capabilities to help ensure your VMs have not been tampered with. With Shielded VMs, you can monitor and react to any changes in the VM baseline as well as its current runtime state.”

These specialized VMs run on GCP and come with a set of partner security controls to defend against things like rootkits and bootkits, according to Google. There are a whole bunch of things that happen even before an application launches inside a VM, and each step in that process is vulnerable to attack.

That’s because as the machine starts up, before you even get to your security application, it launches the firmware, the boot sequence, the kernel, then the operating system — and then and only then, does your security application launch.

That time between startup and the security application launching could leave you vulnerable to certain exploits that take advantage of those openings. The shielded VMs strip out as much of that process as possible to reduce the risk.

“What we’re doing here is we are stripping out any of the binary that doesn’t absolutely have to be there. We’re ensuring that every binary that is there is signed, that it’s signed by the right party, and that they load in the proper sequence,” a Google spokesperson explained. All of these steps should reduce overall risk.

Shielded VMs are available in Beta now

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