Google Security Updates Include Titan Hardware Key

At Next 2018, Google also launches context-aware access management, shielded VMs, and G Suite security center investigation tool.

Kelly Sheridan, Former Senior Editor, Dark Reading

July 25, 2018

4 Min Read

Google is ramping up its security offerings with a wave of cloud and hardware announcements at the Next 2018 conference, taking place this week in San Francisco.

These updates arrive four months after Google rolled out cloud-based data and security controls. They tackle areas of security that officials report as top-of-mind for users: access management, platform security, data protection, and transparency.

"We want to give them a lot of visibility and transparency into operations – what we're doing, how we're doing it," said Rob Sadowski, trust and security marketing lead at Google Cloud, during a virtual press conference about the security updates. 

Many of the updates focus on enabling more secure and convenient access. It's a priority as more devices enter the workplace, says Google product management director Jess Leroy. Users expect seamless access to corporate resources, and network and security administrators need to maintain a certain security standard while maintaining that ease of access.

"You have different types of users connecting from all different types of places, with all different types of devices," Leroy explains. "The ecosystem has changed pretty dramatically."

Secure Access 
Traditional access management tools "often put security at odds with flexibility" by enforcing one-size-fits-all controls that limit users, says Jennifer Lin, product management director at Google Cloud, in a blog post about today's announcements.

Google is addressing the problem with "context-aware access," which will let businesses enforce granular access to Google Cloud Platform (GCP) APIs, resources, G Suite, and third-party SaaS apps based on a person's identity, location, and context of the request. A managed device, for example, might have access to resources other devices don't, Leroy says.

Context-aware security capabilities are available for certain customers using VPC Service Controls. They're coming soon for customers using Cloud and Identity Access Management (IAM), Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy (IAP), and Cloud Identity.

Another component to secure access is the Titan Security Key, a FIDO security key built with a secure element to verify its integrity. It's a phishing-resistant second factor of authentication for high-value users such as Google Cloud admins. Thirty percent of enterprise users open phishing emails, Leroy said, and 12% of them click on the malicious payload.

Google's customers typically use the Titan key for high-value users or content – for example, administrators or root users for whom compromise would cause much greater damage. The Titan Security Key is available now for Google Cloud customers and will soon be available for anyone to purchase on the Google Store.

Secure Infrastructure
Other updates announced today are intended to strengthen the underlying cloud infrastructure, Leroy explains. One of these is Shielded VMs, which use advanced platform security to verify that no one has tampered with virtual machines. Admins can monitor changes to the VM baseline and its current runtime state. Shielded VMs are available now in beta.

Binary authorization, arriving soon in beta, lets users require signature validation when deploying container images. "It's making sure the containers you expect to go to your production environment are always the containers that go to your production environment," Leroy explains. It can be combined with Container Registry Vulnerability Scanning, which ensures images are safe and prevents deploying any containing vulnerable packages.

Data Protection
On the data security front, Google is rolling out Cloud HSM, a hardware security module hosted in the cloud. Cloud HSM lets users host encryption keys and perform cryptographic operations to protect sensitive workloads without worrying about managing an HSM cluster.

"The problem with HSMs is they are extremely onerous to manage," Leroy said. "Once you've deployed, you have to manage them, you have to patch them, provide the right uptime and clustering and scalability ... typically this is not a small investment from a time and money perspective." Cloud HSM is Google's way of addressing these problems, he notes.

The Cloud HSM service is integrated with the Cloud Key Management Service (KMS), Lin explains, so it's easy to create and use keys that are generated and protected in hardware. Cloud HSM can also be used with customer-managed encryption keys (CMEK) integrated services, including Google Compute Engine, Google Cloud Storage, BigQuery, and DataProc.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Sheridan

Former Senior Editor, Dark Reading

Kelly Sheridan was formerly a Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focused on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial services. Sheridan earned her BA in English at Villanova University. You can follow her on Twitter @kellymsheridan.

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