Confidential Guest Support

Traditionally, hypervisors such as QEMU have complete access to a guest’s memory and other state, meaning that a compromised hypervisor can compromise any of its guests. A number of platforms have added mechanisms in hardware and/or firmware which give guests at least some protection from a compromised hypervisor. This is obviously especially desirable for public cloud environments.

These mechanisms have different names and different modes of operation, but are often referred to as Secure Guests or Confidential Guests. We use the term “Confidential Guest Support” to distinguish this from other aspects of guest security (such as security against attacks from other guests, or from network sources).

Running a Confidential Guest

To run a confidential guest you need to add two command line parameters:

  1. Use -object to create a “confidential guest support” object. The type and parameters will vary with the specific mechanism to be used
  2. Set the confidential-guest-support machine parameter to the ID of the object from (1).

Example (for AMD SEV):

qemu-system-x86_64 \
    <other parameters> \
    -machine ...,confidential-guest-support=sev0 \
    -object sev-guest,id=sev0,cbitpos=47,reduced-phys-bits=1

Supported mechanisms

Currently supported confidential guest mechanisms are:

Other mechanisms may be supported in future.